A recent New York Times article entitled Coral vs Coal details the struggle in Australia between the climate change deniers and the climate change chroniclers. And unfortunately it does appear to come down to choosing between the two.

“The reef, one of the largest living things on earth, has started to fail. Whether it can recover is unclear. An organism roughly the size of Germany is bleaching to death…. Bleaching occurs when excessive heat and sunlight cause the algae that give coral reefs their shimmering colors to create toxins.”

Luckily, I got to see a tiny part of the Great Barrier Reef in 2001. My best friend Robert Thorne and I went sea kayaking with a commercial outfitter called Aussie Sea Kayak Company, which as far as I can tell from multiple searches, is no longer in business. We paddled around Hook Island in the Whitsundays on a week long camping trip, and went snorkeling every day. I got to see giant clams, turtles, and a huge fish I had never seen before I later realized was a kind of Triggerfish unlike anything we have in Belize. The coral was beautiful. It breaks my heart to read that 90% of the Great Barrier Reef has been affected by coral bleaching.

Sea kayaking in the Whitsunday Islands, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Sea kayaking in the Whitsunday Islands, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Unfortunately, the politicians in Australia seem to have their heads in the sand as much as many of our politicians do when it comes to protecting our natural resources from degradation.

“Climate change? What climate change? … The reef is as irreplaceable as this planet. Australia has overcapacity in electricity generation. It should close several of its old coal-fired plants. Rich in renewable and clean-energy sources, Australia should be a leader, not a laggard, on climate change. Reputations, like the reef, are easily bleached.”

Coral-Bleaching-at-Lizard-Island4

Coral bleaching is a phenomena that results from high ocean temperatures. Coral thrives in a narrow temperature window, unable to grow if the water becomes either too hot or too cold. Sometimes a worldwide or regional weather pattern of particularly high temperatures will cause coral bleaching, where the coral dies as a result, turning white rather than it’s natural color of tan, yellow, brown, or green.

According to this excellent blog post on the subject by Dr. Jeff Masters of Wunderblog, the entire globe (but mostly the Pacific) is currently experiencing an extended coral bleaching event.

The last coral bleaching event we experienced out at Glover’s Reef in Belize where our island is located was in 1998. This high temperature season culminated in Hurricane Mitch, one of the strongest hurricanes to date, that drastically altered our island. It does not appear that the current event is affecting us out at Glover’s Reef in Belize; the ocean temperatures have so far are remaining normal, which is approximately 80 degrees F.

illegal fishing in Belize

It is a never ending battle to regulate the local fishermen in Belize, and as the fishing stock in Belize continues to decline it has become more of an issue not only for the fishing industry but also for the tourism industry. Belize has many protected areas and Marine Reserves, but the Fisheries Department has chronic financial issues and cannot field enough rangers to effectively control over-fishing. As a result, the fishermen know where they can and can’t get away with poaching, which has reached epidemic proportions in many areas. However, occasionally there is a major bust, which is encouraging. The following article is news about one such bust that recently occurred out at Glover’s Reef, where our island is located.

Coastguard and Fisheries Haul in Illegal Fishermen from Glovers Reef | Channel5Belize.com

howler-monkey-preserve

Every year we receive a Christmas card from Community Conservation, whose headquarters are located in Wisconsin, but they are a non-profit conservation organization with projects all over the world. In addition to helping start the Community Baboon Sanctuary of Belize, they also operate in India, Peru, Ghana, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Madagascar, among a host of other countries.

Believing that local people are the best stewards of their lands, Community Conservation has helped organize and provided subsequent support for community-based organizations world-wide. Their efforts represent 25 projects in 14 countries. These projects have helped to protect almost 1.5 million acres along with numerous endangered species, including primates, cranes, tigers, and turtles.

What got my attention was this great Christmas card! How do you think they got the howler monkeys to line up like that?