Climate change threatens public health and safety here on land, but recent revelations show it has having a huge, negative impact underwater as well.
The Virginia League of Conservation Voters joined forces with Lynnhaven River NOW and Oceana to premiere the documentary “Chasing Coral,” at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Brock Center, last Friday. There, a standing-room only crowd learned about the impacts climate change is having on coral reefs and marine life – threats that would only be exacerbated by currently pending efforts to drill for fossil fuels off our coast.
These risks were highlighting by Virginia Beach City Councilmember John Uhrin, who led the city’s efforts in successfully passing a resolution opposing offshore drilling, as he introduced the film and noted its role in highlighting the importance of taking local action in the face of threats to coastal resources.
The critically acclaimed documentary from Jeff Orlowski has been ringing alarm bells in the environmental community since it captured the audience award at Sundance Film Festival in January. It was just made available worldwide through the streaming service Netflix.
The bleaching of coral reefs caused by increased ocean temperatures impacts the aquatic species that depend on reefs for food and shelter, impacts that make their way up the food chain. As the Los Angeles Times reported, following a screening of the film in New York City, “As much as one-quarter of the sea depends on coral as part of its ecosystem; if it dies, so could many up the chain, including human beings.”
There is also a clear economic impact. According to the report “The Economics of Worldwide Coral Reef Degradation,” coral bleaching could result in up to an $84 billion impact, globally, with the largest hit going to the tourism sector, followed by fisheries and biodiversity.
Following the documentary, five panelists helped connect the global coral bleaching to local initiatives against offshore drilling and for clean energy in order to protect the coasts, economy, and tourism experiences. Two coral experts joined the panel, Evan Culberston, senior aquarist at the Virginia Aquarium; Harmony Hancock, a coral scientist obtaining her PhD from Old Dominion University; Carol Considine, associate professor of engineering technology at ODU; Bev Ludford, co-owner of Pleasure House Oysters and mother of sixth generation oystermen; and Laura Habr-Wood, co-owner of Croc’s 19th Street Bistro, representing the tourism industry.
Together the panel brought unique perspectives from their take on the film, but they all agreed on the importance of local action such as localities joining the Global Covenant and cities opposing offshore drilling.
It’s equally important for members of the public to remain engaged on climate change. With a regulation pending at the state level to cap carbon emissions from power plants and to trade carbon allowances across state lines, it’s critical to make our voices heard on addressing the most critical environmental threat of our time. This means applying pressure to every level of government, from city councils, to Virginia’s statehouse and congress.
We simply must continue to resist the radical Trump administration’s agenda, which wants to send us backwards in the climate fight.
Without strong, coordinated action to reverse the worst impacts of climate change, civilizations under the sea as well as those on land will both crumble.