A Heated Issue: Chasing Coral Agents of Change Brings Together Experts and Community Members

Since 1995, more than 93% of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases has been stored in the oceans, states the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The absorption of greenhouse gases has been heating up our oceans resulting in the coral reef dying. Last year, 29% of the Great Barrier Reef died due to our warming oceans. Even in Hawaii, scientists have studied the demise of our coral reefs as witnessed in the film Chasing Coral.

An expert panel discussion and showing of the film, Chasing Coral, hosted by Agents of Change in partnership with the Hawaii Global Issues Network Conference, was held on Friday, March 9, 2018. More than 300 community members gathered at Le Jardin Academy for the free event to learn about the wellbeing of our coral reef, oceans and environment.

Agents of Change members worked closely with Le Jardin student representatives, who took on the role of hands-on organizers and activists as part of their curriculum. The expert panel, moderated by student leaders, Christian Robbins and Mahie Wilhelm, discussed the dangers facing the coral reef and what can be done. Environmental experts included Dr. Maxine Burkett, Professor of Environmental Law; Dr. Elizabeth Madin, ARC Great Barrier Reef Researcher; Dr. Richard Pyle, Bishop Museum Research Associate; Chris Wall, Coral Physiological-Ecologist; Griffith Jurgers, Blue Planet Education & Outreach Coordinator; and Kevin O’Brien, NOAA Marine Debris Lead.

Audience members included conference attendees from Pacific Rim and Hawaii High Schools, legislative assistants from current elected officials and community members and their families. The audience learned that, without our oceans absorbing the greenhouse gases, our average air temperature would be 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Clean energy sources are needed as well as individual contributions and simple steps to a more sustainable environment. Recommendations for simple steps by individuals included not idling your car to decrease our carbon footprints, using sunscreen that is reef safe and, of course, cleaning up trash and particularly micro-plastics, which contribute to the overall demise of our oceans. The experts also emphasized supporting future legislation and policies that address climate change and reducing our carbon emissions.

Coral reefs are the rainforests of the sea, providing millions of people with food, jobs and safety. Without a healthy ocean, we do not have a healthy planet. Take action now and join us as a changing agent of the future. For more information, visit: chasingcoral.com