Illa M. Oregon

Save the Reefs

Earth's reefs are dying and everyone needs to do their part to save them.

Dear Mr. or Mrs. President,

I want to travel when I get older. Not to places in the U.S, but distant places, like Kenya or Spain. I want to observe strange wildlife and experience exotic cultures. Swimming in the Great Barrier Reef has always been a dream of mine. As a child, I believed that it would be easy to follow my dreams. Now, I am faced with this reality: the sights I want to see may not always be there. Climate change is having a startling effect on many unique ecosystems around the world, including the Great Barrier Reef. If America follows in Australia’s footsteps, by taking preventative actions to reduce the effects of global warming, then perhaps our planet’s reefs can be saved.

I think you can agree that Earth’s oceans are not the responsibility of any one country. The same could be said for global warming. Everyone is responsible for the health of this planet, especially wealthy countries like America. In fact, one first world country is already stepping up to the plate. In a statement from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Dr. Russell Reichelt says,”Over the next decade the Australian and Queensland Governments will spend some $ 2 billion on reef protection.” Obviously, not every country has two billion dollars to spend on global warming, but if even a handful of countries took this level of initiative it would make a difference.

You may be wondering what has been damaging reefs in the first place. The answer has to do with something called “coral bleaching.” Coral is naturally covered in algae. When coral is stressed by a change in its environment, the algae leaves. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Without the algae, the coral loses its major source of food, turns white or very pale, and is more susceptible to disease.” The bleaching is often so devastating that it kills a percentage of the coral. Dr Reichelt states that, “The 2016 mass coral bleaching, the worst bleaching event to affect the Great Barrier Reef, was triggered by record-breaking sea surface temperatures — reflecting the underlying trend of global ocean warming.”

It could be argued that global warming is not to blame for the dying reefs. Coral bleaching occurs in natural cycles, and it has been occurring for a very long time. The problem is, rising water temperatures make coral bleaching happen too often. The cycles have been shortened, and it allows the reefs less time to recover from the damage that is caused. If global warming continues to raise water temperatures at such a rate, the bleaching events will become so close together that the reefs will not recover. Not only would coral die, but the resident tropical fish would likely die as well.

If the reefs died, it would have an alarming effect on the economy and the unemployment rates of countries around the world. The majority of the world’s wild fisheries are in the ocean and rely heavily upon coral reefs. Writer Brian Skoloff quotes the U.N. saying, “Ocean fisheries provide direct employment to at least 38 million people worldwide, with an additional 162 million people indirectly involved in the industry.” Not only would people face unemployment, but the tourism that boosts their countries’ economies would also suffer. Businesses such as restaurants and resorts would fail without the allure of a reef as their tourist attraction.

I want you to be a president with the foresight to prevent disasters that will affect the next generation of Americans. Please, take a proactive stance toward the protection of coral reefs around the world. Why make your children deal with a catastrophe that you can prevent? If you find that you can do little to slow the progression of global warming, I ask that you raise awareness about the problem at hand. I hope that for the sake of my aspirations and the lives of tropical fish everywhere, you will do your part to save our reefs.

Sincerely, Illa McCaulou