Scuba Diver Australasia + Ocean Planet - - Contents - 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

David Doubilet

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

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