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Our Living World is Dying

Stacey Worman, 2006-2007 Michael B. Keegan Traveling Fellow



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Date: September 7, 2006

To: Undisclosed recipients

Re: The Party Eventually Ends.....


It was nothing shy of a grand adventure.

....extraordinary and reoccurring encounters with minke whales....breaching humpbacks by day and their song echoing through our hull by night ....full sails and pods of dolphins on our bow....sea turtles, sting rays, sea snakes, and sharks on every dive....big fish, little fish, juvenile fish, huge schools of fish....magnificent coral gardens, cascading with life....

Day after day, above and below the water, I was bedazzled by the GREAT Barrier Reef. And whenever I would reach a point where I thought that it couldn't possibly get any better...sure enough, it would...


But ask me about my most vivid GBR memory, and I'd tell you this story...

There we was just another ordinary day, and we were going to do just another ordinary dive. We prepared all of our dive gear, loaded it into the small boat, and took off towards the reef. Usually when we drop into the water, everything is right there and we don't need to travel very far. But when we dropped into the water for this dive, all we saw was coral rubble. For the entire 50 minute dive, all we did was swim....we swam along the entire length of the bomby, searching for life. That entire time, all I could think to myself was, "Where am I? This isn't the GREAT Barrier Reef that I know...get me out of here, this doesn't feel real....I feel as if I am on another planet." It was the exact opposite of everything that I had been seeing. The dive ended and we got back into the small boat. After we hauled all of our dive gear out of the water and were on our way back to the ship, I looked across the boat at Carol....she shook her head, looked me in the eyes, and said, 'I know' and held up both her hands and paused. I didn't quite understand. Then she spoke, '10 years, that's what it is going to be like in 10 years. We've already started seeing it in the South Pacific.' Ah-ha....So that's where I had just been.... I had just been in the future...(And they say time travel is impossible, HA!)


On board, the crew had many different little sayings they often used (many which will stay in me forever more). One of them goes, "If you want to see something, you have to be there." And for us to see that particular dead reef patch, we had to be there....

And right now, that's precisely the problem with addressing the coral reefs crisis: If you want to see a coral reef, you have to be there... you have to be in some remote location where they have to be in the water, with your scuba gear on.....and then well, you will see one. And as you probably have just gathered, these logistical difficulties make them incredibly difficult to monitor.

Deforestation rates around the globe are estimated and monitored using satellite imagery, as digital images of an area taken over time can be compared to gauge any compositional changes occurring in ground cover. With this technological advancement, the scale of deforestation occurring worldwide suddenly became clear and undeniable. And when the world saw what was happening, action began...terrestrial conservation found its' catalyst.

And that is reality...we live in a world where most of our "actions" tend to be "re-actions".

And since its' early beginnings, PCRF knew that if they were going to begin addressing the coral reef crisis on a planetary scale, their work at sea wouldn't be enough...They'd have to be able to show the world exactly what was happening...they would have to make the underwater world visible to the people of the world....they would have to provide the world with a comparable gauge, so they could see the scale of destruction occurring. Because then, and only then, action/reaction would really begin.

To this end In 2000, The Planetary Coral Reef Foundation collaborated with other groups (including MIT and Scripps Institute of Oceanography) to pioneer technology capable of remotely sensing our underwater world. They developed an "eye in the sky"; a satellite capable of providing up-to-date information regarding the health and vitality of reefs around the planet. And right now, it all lays in waiting for the funding necessary for its construction and launch.

In the future, the information obtained from the satellite images will be utilized for traditional research purposes (to commence global studies of coral reefs and address effect arising from global warming, pollution, over-fishing, and tourism) and as a platform for a global action campaign for coral reef stewardship. The satellite images' will be distributed, free of charge, to the global public via the internet. People around the world will then be able to see how quickly our planet's coral reefs are vanishing. At which time, "The underwater world of reefs will no longer be 'out of site and hence out of mind'."

"The Coral Reef Satellite Mission will make it possible for policymakers, NGOs, and anyone interested in coral reef conservation to access a standardized "trusted source" of unbiased, real-time data about the state of the world's coral reefs. The data provided by the mission can thus be used to inform better legislation, public policy strategies, critical conversation decisions such as identifying the most effective locations for Marine Protected Areas and management practices to steward reefs worldwide. Increasing challenges of coastal tourism and economic development coral reefs and their related fisheries, marshlands, and lagoons are vanishing. People facing these challenges need in-depth comprehensive, scientific data with which to make decisions in managing their scarce resources." Gaie Alling, President and Co-Founder of The Planetary Coral Reef Foundation.

I don't want to start getting all religious with this now, but isn't there something somewhere that says something like blessed are those who don't see but still believe...or I dunno, something like that...  

I'll leave you with that for now, with more (but not too much more) to follow....




September 4, 2006, Under the Sea, with Scientific Spectacles.....

September 3, 2006, Off the Ship...

August 8, 2006, Back on land, but not for long...

June 24, 2006, Our maiden voyage(s)....

June 19, 2006, Not another mass email.....