Saturday, March 31, 2012

Earth Hour, Thailand, coral death, and the future...

Hi guys,

For this post I would like to talk about an important topic that would impact not only me and my generation, but the future generation and ecosystem as well.  I had just finished participating in 60 minutes Earth Hour in Bangkok at 2030 hour to 2130 hour.  I must admit that hour without technology  eternal and I felt a sense of relief and comfort getting back to my normal realm again.  Towards the ending of that short period, my sister and I were explaining to our mother what is Earth Hour, why should we care?  Many people are still not aware of this annual world-wide activity.  Some of you may even find that,  it's pointless, inconvenient, and irrelevant.

This past month, my family just took a trip to the southern islands in Thailand which are well-known snorkelling and diving sites. Surin island was well-known to be surrounded by some of the most beautiful corals in the world.  We were really excited to go and even purchased waterproof camera to snap some photos.  When we got there, however, what remained was a mass graveyard of dead corals.

Bleaching and death of corals in the Pacific coast

When we got to the snorkelling site, I happily dove down only to discover yellowish, grayish remains of what used to be the most vibrant coral cover in South East Asia. The guide told us the sea hasn't been the same since a massive bleaching event almost 2 years ago.

In 2010, the bleaching has hit the richest coral area in the world, the worst coral die-off since 1998.  See Worst Coral Death Strikes South East Asia

The coral reef is one of the most biologically diverse and sensitive environment on earth.  The main cause of coral bleaching is due to a rapid increase in temperature, causing the algae nourishing the corals to be expelled.  Thus, they turn white and starve to death.  The past years, global warming has been listed as the main cause of coral bleaching.  Though some corals may be able to survive the bleaching, death may occur due intrinsic factors such as toxins and foreign chemicals in the water.

The damage is extensive and will take more than decades to recover. The corals of Surin may never be the same.  I, along with everybody else, will likely never get to experience and enjoy the actual beauty but only in old pictures.

This used to be all purple
The bad news doesn't stop there.  In a few years, organisms that use the coral reef as the shelter will begin to feel the impact.  Soon, the population will be dramatically reduced, causing a domino effect in the food chain.  Livelihood of millions who depend on the marine life will also be affected as well as the tourism industry.   In a few years, there may not be anything to return to here, a place we used to call "paradise on earth".  The tragic example of environmental destruction caused by global warming at the hands of humans isn't evident only in the coral death.  The construction of dams along the Amazon river in Brazil is yet another prime example.

 Seasons and climate in Thailand have been out of sync lately.  There are heavy rainfalls during summer season.  There are storms and high tide when the sea is supposed to be calm.  On the way back from snorkelling, the wave was so high we almost didn't make it back to shore.  I've already seen the damage for myself and, therefore, would like to express and share my concern on this matter.   I can only hope other people will start to see the seriousness of this global issue, and help in some ways to prevent a global catastrophe from happening.

So please be ecologically responsible..

When you go snorkelling,

  • Don't feed the fish.  You would think it's fun to take a few pictures with a school of fish, but in reality you are disturbing their habitat and make them reliant on humans.
  • Select eco-friendly tours.  For Thailand, I find Med-Sye Tour to be educational and informative of the marine life.  However, staff at Xel Ha in Mexico do an excellent job in bringing awareness to tourists of the do's, don'ts, and whys.
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to going in the water

This is extremely crucial.  The sunscreen you lather on has chemicals that cause kill the corals.  What's more, sunscreen need at least 30 minutes to be absorbed into your skin in order to protect you from UV rays.  The best option is to purchase a biodegradable sunscreen.

When you're at home,
  • Participate in Earth Hour - The main goal is to raise awareness.  One person won't make a difference, and can't save the world.  However, millions can.
  • Stop wasting resources - Being more conscious and switching off when you can, don't leave water running.
  • Choose a greener alternative.
Now, I don't want to end with a corny line like 'the future is in your hand'.  Let's just say, we all can make a difference so let's make ourselves more useful starting today!

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