What Does it Takes to be a Coral Restoration Warrior?

What Does it Takes to be a Coral Restoration Warrior?

coral restoration

In the current fracturing state of our natural world, the three different approaches to defending Earth’s ecosystems include preservation, conservation, and restoration. While they all have the common goal of sustaining Earth’s diverse and natural beauty, their methodologies differ. For instance, preservation defends what is left of the wild world, conservation prevents future damage to what currently exists, and restoration rebuilds what has been broken. All of these are incredibly necessary, but the one that is the most heart-wrenching is restoration. 

Restoration projects all over the globe are proof that we are living amidst damaged ecosystems. As a result, this type of work is not for the weary or the doubtful. Restorators are Mother Nature’s warriors, not afraid to salvage what is crumbling before their eyes. Instead of weeping at what the fire has burned, restorators are the ones running into the flames of human-induced destruction with a bucket of water. While much has been burned and lost, restorators choose to look at what is left and what has survived against the odds. The same holds true with coral restoration work. Since the 1950s, studies have found that 50% of global coral reef coverage has been lost. Yet hundreds of coral restoration campaigns dispersed throughout the oceans worldwide show the persistence of the human spirit to defend and rebuild what we hold dear.  

coral polyp

This optimism that restorators cling to is the foundation of the work itself, understanding that “every drop in the ocean counts”- Yoko Ono. While this work is oftentimes slow and tedious, the successes deserve recognition, for they are the drops filling up the ocean. Diving in Manuel Antonio with Marine Conservation Costa Rica’s coral restoration internship one gets to witness the coral rehabilitation process from the ground up. Corals are harvested and propagated on plugs where they are given time and space to grow in the nurseries. Here they undergo nurturing care, weekly cleanings with toothbrushes, and continuous assessment of their health. After they have proven themselves to be hearty and healthy sprouts, the corals are ready to be planted in the wild. This aspect is arguably the most fulfilling part of coral restoration work– having the opportunity to cultivate young and hopeful corals back into the environments that desperately rely on them. 

 The work of a coral gardener is this constant dualism– swimming through ecosystems of  chalky, gray corals while planting new plugs full of life, color, and promise. 

coral restoration work

This optimism that restorators cling to is the foundation of the work itself, understanding that “every drop in the ocean counts”- Yoko Ono. While this work is oftentimes slow and tedious, the successes deserve recognition, for they are the drops filling up the ocean. Diving in Manuel Antonio with Marine Conservation Costa Rica’s coral restoration internship one gets to witness the coral rehabilitation process from the ground up. Corals are harvested and propagated on plugs where they are given time and space to grow in the nurseries. Here they undergo nurturing care, weekly cleanings with toothbrushes, and continuous assessment of their health. After they have proven themselves to be hearty and healthy sprouts, the corals are ready to be planted in the wild. This aspect is arguably the most fulfilling part of coral restoration work– having the opportunity to cultivate young and hopeful corals back into the environments that desperately rely on them. 

 The work of a coral gardener is this constant dualism– swimming through ecosystems of  chalky, gray corals while planting new plugs full of life, color, and promise. 

Although restoring what is broken can be disheartening at times, the hope of a future filled with vibrant, flourishing corals for succeeding generations to relish in outweighs the gloom. Herein lies what it takes to be a restoration warrior, in a world that desperately needs restoring.

Because restoration efforts are consistently bombarded with threats and casualties to what they attempting to protect, it is important to maintain a hopeful mindset. As restoration workers, one must understand and balance the duality of our dying yet adaptive world. In the world of scuba diving, the health of the coral reef ecosystems is noticeable with every dive. On one hand, there is abundant life and miraculous creatures thriving under the sea, while on the other hand there are countless signs warning of irreversible destruction and sickly coral reefs.

The more one learns about coral reefs, what threatens them, and what a diseased coral looks like the harder it is to disregard these truths– hence exposing the burden of knowledge. It is impossible not to notice the pink pimples and white scarring revealing the stress the reefs are enduring. As a diver you also witness firsthand the bleached, decaying corals, and grasping the full weight of these hard truths only adds to the pressure already felt underwater. In order to sustain the hope that keeps restorators moving, making space for the realities of resilience and fatality is a practice that all of us can learn as we cope with the current warming state of our one and only planet.    

outplanting corals

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Climate anxiety – What is it and what can you do about it?

Climate anxiety – What is it and what can you do about it?

Climate anxiety? What are your plans for the next six years? Graduate college, travel the world, get a puppy, buy a house, get married, build a garden, start a new job, have a child, or maybe two? Six years is such a long time! Time that can be spent creating beautiful moments. But what if you had to fit the rest of your life in the next six years—six years and 317 days to be exact. How short would six years feel then? Would you live your life differently? If you had the opportunity to add more time to these six years, would you make smarter, more ethical, and sustainable decisions? 

climate clock

Climate Clock

The climate clock hangs high in Berlin, and New York City, counting down “how long it will take, at current rates of emissions, to burn through our ‘carbon budget’ — the amount of CO2 that can still be released into the atmosphere while limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This is our deadline, the time we have left to take decisive action to keep warming under the 1.5°C threshold.” (Climate Clock) 

While the clock does bring needed attention, is not always positive.The countdown may bring awareness to the climate crisis and encourage sustainable living, but does the oversaturation in the news increase a sense of impending doom? That no matter how much plastic you stop using, the meat you stop eating, or the numerous protests you attend, nothing will make enough significance to reverse this ticking time bomb. If you feel stress or grief around the current climate crisis, you are probably experiencing “climate anxiety,” “a fairly recent psychological disorder afflicting an increasing number of individuals who worry about the environmental crisis” (Psychology Today).

If you are someone who experiences climate anxiety and is feeling a little lost or scared, try not to worry. You are not alone. There is an entire community experiencing the same feelings. As someone who experiences climate anxiety myself, I would like to share some useful tips to help lessen your anxiety. 

Make adjustments

I’ve made adjustments to my daily living so I can leave a positive impact on my planet. If you have not already, start by lessening your plastic and meat intake, use your car less and public transport more, and switch off your lights and water as often as possible. 

“But I already do all of this, and it does not feel like enough.” 

While your individual acts are extremely important, I can understand those small changes might not feel overly impactful. Let me remind you that your small acts are making a huge difference, so take pride in that! Keep up the good work, and share your knowledge with those around you. Also remember, it is not the individual person that is having the greatest negative impact on our planet. It is the large-scale corporations that cause detrimental environmental damage. We need to continue holding them accountable. 

Fast fashion

fast fashion

You can start by limiting how much you shop from fast fashion companies. Fast fashion, “an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers”,is a massive polluter, creating cheap clothing, at the expense of underpaid workers. Clothes not meant to last to the next season end up in our landfills. Fast fashion produces excessive amounts of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere and pollutes our waters with dyes and chemicals. 

Support small, ethical businesses and most importantly shop second-hand whenever possible. 

Try buying groceries from local farmers and markets whenever possible. Corporate farms tear down large sections of forest to make room for livestock, among other harmful practices. I would also recommend shopping organic to avoid harmful pesticides. The use of these chemicals overflows to waterways and is harmful to fish. 

When these practices aren’t an option, look for companies that have green policies—companies that pledge to offset their carbon footprint, or create products that are environmentally friendly. 

Your voice is your greatest strength. Hold corporations accountable for their actions. We need to demand sustainable initiatives, and if companies refuse to upgrade, then we must take our business elsewhere. 

Be positive

It can be extremely anxiety-inducing to have no idea what our future is going to look like. Especially when countdowns like the Climate Clock can make us feel like we are running out of time. I want to encourage you to look at this situation as “glass half full”, we have six years. Six years to change our daily practices. To live a zero-waste lifestyle, to stop eating meat, to buy only from small, local, sustainable businesses, and to stop supporting large corporations. Six years to reverse the damages done to our planet. We still have the chance to encourage change and make a difference. We have the opportunity to be the change we want to see in this world. 

Written by Karley Feather – MCCR Media & Conservation Intern

How green is your packaging? – 6 common misconceptions busted

How green is your packaging? – 6 common misconceptions busted

With the world changing we have been forced to reevaluate our way of life. One of the biggest things that has been brought to the forefront is the impact our daily habits have on the health of our planet. Seeing such a sharp change once everyone was in lockdown has made it even more clear. If the earth and nature is given a chance it will fight back.

Over the next month we are going to have a look at how covid has put living a sustainable life in focus. We work everyday to live a sustainable life, but with different information being presented all of the time it is hard to sometimes keep a clear path. Starting on this topic we are looking at one of the most common things we deal with everyday, packaging, and we are addressing 6 common misconceptions about “green packaging”.

Plastic is the bad guy of packaging

plastic packaging

Ban single use plastics has been a common anthem of anyone aiming to live a more sustainable life. The big one of these is plastic bags. Interesting fact, they were originally invented as a reusable carrying source, not intended to be used once and thrown away. But did you know that single use plastics can be more sustainable depending on the material it is made from? Also, how it is used and where it ends up. It actually has a smaller carbon footprint than say a canvas bag . That would have to be used up to 300 times to have a comparable impact. Also, by packing something once, properly in plastic rather than using less effective means of packaging could result in the item being damaged to being sent back. This results in the supply chain extending and so the carbon emissions increasing.

glass packaging

Glass is a always more sustainable than plastic

This is not always true. Glass containers are heavier to transport and are not always recycled back into glass products even after they are collected. They may end up being used in roads amongst other things. For example, I have seen food products presented in glass packaging which can then be recycled so is touted as a more sustainable option. BUT only if the consumer decides to recycle it.

Biodegradable means compostable

As we have discovered over the years, there are different meanings to the word “degradable”. If you see something labeled as “bio-degradable’ Yes it will degrade but many times not without some serious industrial processes. Otherwise they could be in the environment for many years. A label called oxo-degradable is common to see on some plastics. It means that the use of chemicals is required to break them down. This in turn creates microplastics which as we all know are a huge problem in the marine and terrestrial environment and can end up in our food chain. So, next time you are looking at “degradable” bag for example, check what kind of degradable it is.

All plastic is made of the same thing

There is no one type of plastic and yes, all of it is a pollutant. The challenge is to reduce your use of plastic and change the types that we are using. There is a large focus right now on creating plant-based materials for the plastic so producing a more sustainable option. Longer term options are being looked at which include larger scale utilization of these methods. “An example is Tetra-Rex. This is a plant-based carton made from paperboard and plastic derived from sugar cane” said Erik Lindroth from Tetra Pak. If you research some of the companies that are using this type of plastic packaging, you can focus your buying on these options.

Food without packaging is always better

Before this delightful pandemic came our way, there was a very large push around the world to start introducing food stuffs with no packaging. However, this can also have its draw backs. By wrapping in plastic, the shelf life of a food product can be extended so reducing the food waste. Food spoilage and waste can have an even bigger footprint than the single use film. I am not saying that single use film is great, no. It is a pollutant, but it is extremely important as well to take into account the food wastage that may otherwise occur. Food packaging is just a small part of the whole footprint of the product.

All aluminum is bad

After plastic, aluminum is very much frowned upon. Almost 75% of all aluminum is still in circulation which goes along with the thought process that it is infinitely recyclable. The problem has always been though, that it is very energy intensive to recycle to creating a large carbon footprint. However, there is a focus now on low energy aluminum which is produced using clean energy processes. So making the carbon footprint less. This is a great example of a sustainable future and a super weapon in the fight against climate change according to a UK former climate and energy minister.

I know it is hard to take from this one clear message. Yes, plastic is bad, but it it not always the worse option and can be recycled, in the right way and we need to try and prevent it from reaching the oceans. The best we can do in general is juts to overall consume less and be more mindful or what we are buying and how. Everything we can do will have an affect on our planet and oceans. That is what we are trying to save.