Emerald green, pearl white, coral red. That perfect ecosystem characterized by bright colors no longer exists. The colorful majesty of the reef has given way to a forest of pale white fossils. This physical-chemical process is called bleaching (from bleach, a substance we are all familiar with) and perfectly conveys the idea. Man put his hand in the middle of anemones and angelfish that wallowed in reef inlets to take a sponge and selfishly “erase” the brilliance of the sea. No colors, no life.
The sponge he used has a very precise name: Co2. Humans’ choices over the last 50 years have led to an extraordinary development of the industrialization. Forests have been cut, rivers and lakes have been dried up. The planet has been exploited to meet man’s desire for treasures and he has unknowingly erased the colors of the corals. All this without thinking about the consequences. The first alert dates back to 2006. A study conducted by the researchers Katie Cramer and Jeremy Jackson revealed the reason why the reef was gradually vanishing.
Sometimes it happens that corals, in certain stressful circumstances, bleach, that is, discolor in a natural way. This occurs when the coral-seaweed connection breaks. One of the causes is dictated by global warming. The excessive presence of atmospheric carbon pushes its way also into oceans. Moreover: the gradual disappearance of the reef is caused by phenomena such as deforestation and overfishing.
Silt, soil nutrients and contaminants do not allow corals to grow. Also overfishing has also led to a drastic decline of fish that feed on algae weeds. The latter happen to grow on the reefs. They compete for territory and cover corals, thus preventing their further growth.
The attempts of Cop21 Paris seem to be vain. The powerful of the earth have failed. That is the reason why scholars raised the alarm at the United Nations once again: “Let us put coral reefs on the list of protected species.” But UN Headquarters in New York seems to be deaf. The “apocalyptic” data presented by the scholars are shocking: more than half of the world’s reefs might disappear in less than 25 years.
Whereas civil authorities keep silent, we can hear the voice of a bishop, that of Rome. Humanity’s common struggle to contrast catastrophic climate and environmental change has just begun, and this document brings the world closer to a turning point: the end of the fossil fuels.
While huge columns of black smoke continue to raise to the skies from factory chimneys, Pope Francis’ first encyclical, “Praised Be”, recalls that the environment is the common heritage of humanity and responsibility for its care falls on all of us. “Technology based on fossil fuels, which is highly polluting – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser extent, gas – must be gradually replaced, without delays”, reads the papal document. This is clearly a message for investors, CEOs, and political leaders to speed up the energy revolution towards cleaner sources. An appeal that extends to every inhabitant of the planet Earth.
The survival of corals is not the only thing at stake: this issue concerns the whole oceanic ecosystem and the poor are affected the most by climate change, while having contributed least to cause the problem. “The moral imperative to fight climate and social injustice” should be a warning to everyone. This way, the tremendous paradox that has been created will be able to disappear. Only by joining our forces, we can encourage governments to strengthen the defense of our marine heritage. “Color is a power that directly influences our soul,” said the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky. Are we that sure we want to live in a black and white world?