FOREWORD BY DAVID DOUBILET
Conservation. Extinction. Amplification. Art. Photography. Social Media. Influencers. Leverage. Popular words that the conservation savvy throw out there, especially in annual reports of metrics, impact and Instagram followers. Words that even I throw out there to sound like I know what
I am talking about. News flash: I have learnt it takes more than words to make a difference. It takes action, personal sacrifice, stepping out of your comfort zone, risk and yes, money.
Get ready. I am very tired from a month-plus long trip documenting the global status of coral, so I am not going to pull any punches with these words because I am too pissed off – though not at what you might think. My partner Jennifer Hayes and I were diving in a nearshore coral reef that had become a graveyard after back-to-back coral bleaching. This once beautiful shallow reef was now 90 percent dead, toppled and festooned in algae. Don’t get me wrong, sculpturally, surreally, it was absolutely beautiful, like a haunted house, an ancient ruin or vine-draped temple once busy with colour, sights and sound. The visibility was poor, adding to the dismal nature of the scene, but that added unsettling beauty because the particulates reflected and scattered the light like expensive lighting in an art gallery. Rays of sunshine dappled long dead table corals, once gloriously reaching for light, now collecting the detritus and dust of the sea. I swam looking for live coral, something, anything to photograph until I stopped swimming and began to sink to the bottom, defeated and angry.
The oceans are in unchartered territory and unprecedented trouble, but there is resilience, robustness and untouched wilderness worth sharing and giving hope and fighting for
I went through a range of emotions. I was selfish and frustrated that I could not make a beautiful image. That frustration gave way to sadness and that gave way to realisation and despair. What if this is the future of coral reefs? What the hell has my life underwater been about? And finally red hot anger that a diverse, productive coral city in the sea that took hundreds of years to grow could be destroyed in two years. I was angry enough not to move but just look around and absorb what was in front of me. I was about as angry as I have ever been in my life and all that anger was directed inwardly at myself. I pretty much live, work and preach underwater. We are tireless conservation journalists, advocates, and support dozens of causes, yet we do not own solar panels, we do not drive a hybrid (just a fuel efficient Mini Cooper because it’s cool and fun to drive). We live and breathe the sea but our willingness to part with some luxuries, or go the extra solar mile has come up short. We are carbon contributors to this scene before me.
And here is where I went ballistic. If we, as photographers, conservationists, advocates, publishers, filmmakers, writers, artists and journalists are not doing all that we can to lead by example, just how on Earth can we set an example for others who know less and are less passionate about what we are losing? Fisheries are collapsing under greed. Coral is struggling due to climate change. Endangered species are being poached like popcorn for idiotic, mythical human healing and