environmentalism

Fake News & the Great Barrier Reef – Why You Should be Validating Stories Before Hitting ‘Share’

Featured image from GreatBarrierReef.org – (http://www.greatbarrierreef.org/about-the-reef/)

I have been tagged in an article from the NY Post on Facebook a billion times. Okay, that number is gross exaggeration, but the article is always the same. The headline reads “Great Barrier Reef dead at 25 million” and it shows up all over my News Feed and Facebook in general ( http://nypost.com/2016/10/14/the-great-barrier-reef-is-dead-at-25-million-years-old/ ). Tons of shares, upset reactions – except all of this response is in vain. News flash: the Great Barrier Reef is not dead yet. Other news flash: sharing posts of false scientific and environmental nature distracts from the real environmental issues at hand, and puts people’s energies into writing angry responses on Facebook instead of actually trying to help the issue.

Let’s talk about the Reef first. Yes, the Reef is dying. Yes, the Reef is dying quickly. The Great Barrier Reef is divided into three sectors, let’s call them A, B, and C. What we do know as of 2016 is that based on climate change and pollution levels, parts A and B of the Reef are almost entirely bleached and are becoming unable to sustain the life that is normal to that part of the Reef. Part C is doing okay; there is some bleaching occurring but most of that section is still able to function. So part of the article in question is true; there is death in the Reef and there is a lot of it. But the idea of the Reef being dead means that we can mourn our loss and get upset, but we should not be mourning. The parts of the Reef that are still alive need our help, or else all the major and credible news sources will be running headlines that do discuss how this great natural wonder has died.

I live in North America, some 10,000 miles away from the Great Barrier Reef. So two of the big questions that now come up are “how can I help from so far away?”, followed by the infamous “how does this impact me?/why should I care?” If the death of hundreds of thousands of species does not bother you, then there are more human-based reasons for concern of losing the Reef. The Great Barrier Reef acts as a home and migratory ground for key parts of the food chain, including species that we rely on as huge food sources. What many people fail to see is how everything is connected. Take sharks for instance; we are scared of the ones that are able to do us harm. When these sharks cause harm to humans, most of the time due to not being able to differ a human from a true prey source, some humans find it necessary to wish death or actually try killing these sharks. Without sharks, the entire marine food web would be thrown off, and we do rely on the oceans for more than just pleasure and food. Coral species native to the Reef have been used in the medical fields to help develop and research compounds to treat all kinds of health issues, from epilepsy to cancer.

So how do we help? First, we recognize that climate change is a real issue, and we start acting in ways that will help reduce the carbon footprint. In the United States, we have a president who is…uneducated and mindless on issues that are not the size of his hands or his social media ego, but that should not stop us, and everyone around the world, from acting. Climate change is a huge issues to tackle, but there are steps that you and the people around you can take to help. A couple easy ways are to eat less meat, rely less on automotive transport or carpool, switch to LED from halogen bulbs…there are many more ways out there and all it requires is a search engine to get started. I do provide some links for suggested methods at the end of the article.

Second, we stop polluting the oceans. Start using more ocean-friendly sunscreens when you go swimming or diving in the ocean, or switch over to SPF swimwear (see my recent post about Summer Skin Care). Stream 2 Sea has also just released a sunscreen line that has been tested and proven to not cause any harm to aquatic and marine life; check out their backstory and products at the end of this post.

Thirdly, we start acting. Start reading articles about what is actually happening with the Great Barrier Reef. Read the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s page, sign petitions that will be used in credible fashions, even find organizations to donate to. Most importantly, check the sources of articles you are sharing. It takes a quick Google search to plug in ”Great Barrier Reef dead”, and a few more seconds to see the many headlines contradicting that very article. That does not mean there is no cause for concern, it just means that we have more time to act and try to save this environment. I say it many times on this blog, we only get one planet. The Great Barrier Reef is one of the oldest ecosystems on this planet, and because of our negligence, we are at risk of losing it. So yes, share environmental awareness articles, yes, get riled up and angry about the state of the environment. But I have read one too many comments on the death of the Great Barrier Reef and how it is such a loss, but it is not lost, and with all of our help it will not be.

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