Last year the newlines were dominated by the mass coal bleaching event which left a large percentage of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral white and stripped of life. Aquatic ghosts and a figural canary.
At the time, scientists were calling on the government and general public to take heed. While the scientist were in tears, tourism operators were calling for calm and perspective, understandably worried about their livelihood. The environmental scientist warned that these events could become more and more common, by 2030 they could occur every second year. The reef needs at least five years to recover, but 15 – 20 years is a more accepted time frame. Bleaching events every second year could prove fatal to the reef.
This year, after the first aerial survey for 2017, it appears likely another mass bleaching event has occurred. This strikes icicles into my heart. It is entirely possible that my kids will never see the reef. It seems almost certain that my grandchildren won’t. The worried tourist operators could well run campaigns “See the reef while you still can.”
Climate change is occurring. Rapidly. The angry summer is proof of that. And yet the US has placed a climate change denier as the leader of the EPA (have a look at the change of tone of the US EPA Facebook site for some truly depressing reading). Our politicians think it’s a bit of a laugh to bring coal into parliament. It’s complete and utter madness when the people in charge bury their heads in the sand and the rest of the world has to cope with their incompetence. I can completely understand why scientists feel so frustrated.
I wonder if every generation feels the same sense of hopelessness over their children’s futures. My German great grandparents had the terrifying experience of bring up children in the midst of war. My grandparents watched the doomsday clock edge closer to midnight during the Cuban Missile Crisis and worried they would have to survive a nuclear winter (after surviving a childhood shaped by war). My own parents brought my sister and I up as the gulf war threatened every day on television.
When I visited my grandparents as a child, my Opa would let us know that a global crisis was coming (any day now) and none of us soft-bellied folk likely to survive. My Opa was such a pessimist that he would describe the water glass as poisoned rather than half empty. Yet despite the family oracle insisting life was terrible and about to get worse, my own insular life has been happy and protected.
The threats to normal life are on the fringes. Reports of war continue, their impact dulled by their constancy. So much information comes at us that’s it hard to know what to be afraid of. But changing climate, that seems a very real thing to me. The death of natural landmarks can’t be met with complacency – surely? Will technology somehow save our environment and humanity? Will the end of days once again be swerved? Is my worry unnecessary?
There is a documented tendency to believe that the world is getting worse, when it isn’t. So maybe I’m worried for nought. But, to be honest, that doesn’t sit right.
A trip to Cairns may be on radar sooner rather than later, so that my children see the beauty that they will have to work so hard to protect. Treading softly on the planet is something we talk about often. We try to do the right things but I feel like they are tiny, insignificant drops in a very large ocean. I worry that my children won’t just be guardians of the environment, they will have to be soldiers for it. I think this will be my children’s war – and I fear the odds are stacked against them.
Do you worry about this for your kids?
What do you think is the answer?