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If you had to choose, would you favor coal or coral?

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.”

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