Saturday, December 13, 2008

Coral reefs dying

A recent NYTimes science blog discussed the existential threat to the Earth's coral reefs, coming from a variety of sources, including acidification of the oceans due to carbon dioxide absorption, reef bombing, overfishing, etc. Here's my comment:

One thing individuals can do to help–odd as it sounds–is to become scuba divers.

We divers are eye witnesses to what’s going on beneath the surface of our seas. Talking to older divers reveals how greatly diminished many reef habitats are now.

Yet speaking as someone who only started diving in 1994, I’ve still seen–and continue to see–amazing beauty underwater, from the Caribbean to Indonesia and elsewhere.

I’ve also heard reef bombing going on, seen poachers at work in national parks, seen the devastation caused by humankind’s wasteful and destructive treatment of the ocean’s resources. And since I’ve seen and heard these things myself, I can be a more compelling advocate.

Humans understand specifics more than statistics. That’s just the way it is.

Also, the more divers take themselves and their money to tropical destinations, the more the locals have an incentive to conserve our reefs. I’ve seen what a huge difference this can make. It won’t help with acidification directly but it can ameliorate the situation in other ways.

True, diving is dangerous. In fact it’s as dangerous as driving a car on a freeway. Oh, wait. You do do that, though, right?

In fact, as long as you stick to sport diving parameters, you can get life insurance (unlike sky divers, for example). Insurance company actuaries are a great source of information as to which activities are reasonably safe, and which are not.

The key is training and common sense. Don’t get one of those InstaDiver resort courses. Take a proper course from a proper dive shop, and don’t do stupid things like partying ’till 3am then diving at 8am. I’ve been on over 400 dives worldwide in many conditions and have never had a problem, apart from a jellyfish sting twice on my lip–about as painful as a thistle sting. That’s it.

So go dive, enjoy one of the most exciting activities you can do, become a witness, help our planet.

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