I just got back with a team filming a documentary at the Great Barrier Reef and there really is only one word for what we saw: stunning.
From above, it looks like a blue desert speckled with green jewels. Under water, reef fish dart through bright coral canyons.
But no matter which way you look at it, our Great Barrier Reef is one of the most vulnerable places on Earth to the impacts of climate change. The breathtaking beauty of one of our most-loved national icons is not enough to save it.
Australia relies on the reef to support over 63,000 livelihoods, to sustain a fishing industry and to attract tourists.
Even if we’ve never been there, the fact that our country has stewardship over a reef that can be seen from space is part of our national identity. As Edward Abbey writes: “We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to go there… we need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope.”
But now, our reef needs us. So this year Earth Hour will use its power to focus attention on what we must do to save it by halting the threat of climate change and ocean acidification. Because unless our society changes course soon, we’re writing the reef’s death warrant in each tonne of coal and gas we mine and burn.
The impacts of climate change are already visible, in every corner of our planet. We’ve already changed the acidity of the oceans and the composition of the atmosphere.
But the story of how climate change is affecting our Great Barrier Reef is one of the most tangible and heartbreaking. The story of climate change can be seen and felt on the reef – in acidifying oceans, bleaching coral, increasing sand and ocean temperatures, more extreme storm damage to the reef, and rising sea levels.
Our reef is running out of time, but those of us alive today can be the ones to help save it. And just because a situation is urgent does not mean it is too late.
Earth Hour was founded on the principle that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Earth Hour provides a moment for you – yes, you – to have a conversation you normally might not. A conversation with friends and family about our need to tackle climate change and the carbon pollution that causes it, for the sake of our Great Barrier Reef and so much more.
So this Earth Hour, on Saturday 29th March, it’s time to make a stand for our Reef. Host an Earth Hour gathering with friends and family, or attend a community gathering. At 4.30pm tune into Earth Hour’s world premiere documentary Lights Out For the Reef on Channel Ten. Then at 8.30pm join the citizens of 154 nations and 7001 cities around the world in turning out your lights to make a stand for the reef.
Let’s be proud to say we didn’t sit back, but helped move a nation and a world to change course to save places like our Great Barrier Reef from climate change.
Go to www.earthhour.org.au to get involved.
Anna Rose is National Manager of Earth Hour with WWF Australia, former young Environmentalist of the Year for her work co-founding the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, and author of the book Madlands: A Journey to Change the Mind of a Climate Sceptic. She has written for a range of publications including The Griffith Review,Vogue Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age and was recently named one of Cosmopolitan magazine’s 2013 “30 Game Changers Under 30”.
How will you be celebrating Earth Hour this year?