In 1992 I was lucky enough to go backpacking around Egypt & Israel. In between visits to Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and Luxur, I went to Dahab to snorkel in the 'blue hole'. It was an astonishing experience, and at the time, I had no idea that it was going to be life changing.
I swam out over the edge of the reef, as if flying off a cliff, and stared down into the abyss, heart racing and almost chocking as I gasped at the disorientation. Light blue turned to azure and then a deep, deep blue, stretching down to infinity, broken only by the flickering of diver's air bubbles rising to the surface from far below. I panicked, and turned back to the edge, blood pumping in my ears and my senses reeling.
As I regained my composure I became aware of the incredible biodiversity around me; hundreds of brightly coloured reef fish darting in and out of the crazy shaped coral. Bigger fish lazily drifting past seemed unconcerned at this big weird white thing flapping about amongst them. It was how I imagine taking LSD must feel; colours so vivid that I can still recall them now.
A few days later I tried to describe the experience to my brother. He listened dutifully before uttering a single sentence that was to redefine the rest of my life: "I'm glad you enjoyed it, as it won't be there for much longer. Ocean acidification is killing it all".
Garry was a lot greener than I was, becoming environmentally aware as a teenage beach bum back in the days when Surfers Against Sewage were just getting started. I was an engineer, fixing aeroplanes, and largely wrote off his anti-establishment rhetoric as 'hippy shit'.
Somehow, this particular statement stuck with me and, pre-google, I took time to find out what he was on about. If he was right (he often wasn't) the incredible beauty I had experienced was far too precious to gamble with and I couldn't sit idly by. Not only was he right, but by virtue of my visit, I too was contributing to the death of the reef.
Garry massively oversimplified the issue, but in a nutshell, increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere caused in the main by human related activity (such as fossil fuel powered travel) are being absorbed into the oceans, increasing their acidity and bleaching then killing the coral. At the time the science was still relatively new and open to critique. It isn't now, and the Great Barrier Reef
is the latest to hit the headlines.
Snorkelling elsewhere a few years later, I was astonished to swim into a large octopus, holding onto the reef with half of its arms (or are they legs?) whilst searching with its others. We spotted each other almost simultaneously and for a split second I was in an underwater horror movie about to be suckered to death. We froze, staring intently at each other, and before my eyes he turned from bright orange to the colour of the bleached coral around him. I was less than two metres from him, and had to stare hard at the same spot before I could make out his outline as he morphed and disappeared.
It is unforgivable that we would consciously allow such incredible natural life to be destroyed by our selfishness. I know I can't fix it for Occy, but I can try to minimise my part in his demise. Smart-Living is my invite for you to join me. Everyone is welcome, wether you are a lifelong environmentalist wanting to do more to mitigate the impact of your daily life, or a newbie taking your first steps in becoming conscious of your consumer choices.
Come on in - let's make the water lovely again.