While many people are familiar with the gorgeous aesthetic of coral reefs and the broad, diverse marine environment that they foster, most are unfamiliar with just how important these structures are to the health of the oceans. In total, coral reefs cover about 0.1 percent of the ocean’s but they nurture 25 percent of the world’s marine species. If these marine species are lost, the impact would be devastating for around 500 million people who rely on coral ecosystems for their food and livelihood. In many ways, coral reefs are the ocean’s lifelines and when they disappear, it can create an ecologically devastating domino effect.
Unfortunately, it seems that this domino effect has already been set in motion due to rising global ocean temperatures. Coral reefs are beautiful, but they can only exist in very specific ocean conditions. When waters get too warm, the symbiotic algae that live on the coral’s exoskeleton, and provide for the actual coral animal, die off and the coral loses its color and dies if the algae do not return.
This process is known as algae bleaching and shockingly, it is becoming an extremely frequent occurrence in the world’s oceans. Since the 1980s, about 50 percent of the world’s coral reefs have disappeared, and a shocking new study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) found that the world is officially experiencing the third ever recorded global coral bleaching event and the damage is predicted to be monstrous.
This shocking image shows a fire coral before and after bleaching. This is happening all across the ocean.
This year alone, scientists predict that 4,600 square miles of coral reefs worldwide may be killed. That includes such iconic locations as the coral reefs found off the coast of the Hawaiian Islands, the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, as well as the coral reefs that dot the Indian Ocean.
When faced with this sort of monumental loss of coral as well as marine species, it is easy to feel incredibly overwhelmed and, frankly, depressed about what this means for the future of ocean life – not to mention what it means for life here on land, after all, as marine conservationist Captain Paul Watson says, “When the oceans die, we die.” But what if we told you there is one simple thing that we all can do to make a difference for coral reef? Well, get ready … because there is!
Using Your Next Meal to Help Coral
By and large, the temperature of the world’s oceans is rising as a result of climate change – which as we know, is driven by rampant man-made greenhouse gas emissions. In order to curb the warming of the oceans, we need to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere, and surprisingly, we can all play a part in doing this every time we sit down for a meal.
More than any other industry, animal agriculture is one of the leading drivers of global climate change. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while other organizations like the Worldwatch Institute have estimated it could be as much as 51 percent.
One Green Planet believes that our global food system dominated by industrial animal agriculture is at the heart of our environmental crisis.
This destructive industry drives greenhouse gas emissions in addition to air and water pollution, land degradation, deforestation and is pushing countless species to the brink of extinction. And as we see in this case, the consequences of this are impacting vital ecosystems like the world’s coral networks.
“The real war against climate is being fought on our plates, multiple times a day with every food choice we make,” says Nil Zacharias, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of One Green Planet, ”one of the biggest challenges facing our planet, and our species is that we are knowingly eating ourselves into extinction, and doing very little about it.”
As the leading organization at the forefront of the conscious consumerism movement, it is One Green Planet’s view that our food choices have the power to heal our broken food system, give species a fighting chance for survival, and pave the way for a truly sustainable future. By choosing to eat more plant-based foods, you can drastically cut your carbon footprint and help give coral reefs a fighting chance at recovery. With the wealth of available plant-based options available, it has never been easier to eat with the planet in mind.
To learn more about how you can use your food choices to help coral reefs, join One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign.