May 12, 2022

Hidden toward the back of yesterday’s paper was an interesting take on the perils facing a reef near Miami, Florida.  Colin Foord and J. D. McLay have partnered to form Coral Morphologic to bring the undersea world of the coral reef to light by posting stunning images and amazing closeups of underwater creatures on social media.  The images have set time-lapsed video of swaying, glowing coral to music and projected it onto buildings. They even sell a coral-themed beachwear line.  “We aren’t all art.  We aren’t all science.  We aren’t all tech.  We are an alchemy,” Foord said.  One of their most popular projects is the Coral City Camera, which just passed 2 million views and usually has about 100 viewers online at any given time.  The project has documented one year in the life of a coral reef, something that has never been done before.

When I looked online, I found coral reefs provide habitat for 25% of all known marine species, many of which provide sustenance and livelihood to half a billion people globally.  Reefs also protect coastal communities from extreme climate events like storm surges.  Despite the crucial environmental role, the world’s oceans have lost 50% of their living coral reef since 1950, and if action is not taken scientists estimate all coral reefs could be dead by 2050.  Destructive fishing practices and pollution take their toll, but the greatest impact comes from climate change.  The warming oceans prompt coral bleaching and raise the risk of diseases that can cause mass coral die-offs.  Stronger storms and changes in water chemistry can destroy reef structures, and altered currents sweep away food and larvae.  The global reefs are in peril.

The Coral City camera is located in Miami’s Government Cut.  The livestream has revealed that staghorn and other corals can adapt and thrive even in a highly urbanized undersea environment, and the reef supports 177 species of fish, dolphins, manatees, and other sea life.  McKay also films reef creatures in their Miami lab, growing coral in tanks to get them ready for closeups in glorious color.  These images are soundtracked with ambient sounds, or according to McKay, “something very oceanic.”  Their “Coral City Flourotour” will be shown on the New World Center Wallscape this week as the Aspen Institute hosts a climate conference in Miami Beach.  Foord is speaking on a panel about how the ocean’s natural systems can help humans learn to combat the impacts of climate change.  Together they are trying to make a positive impact.

THOUGHTS:  Climate change refers to last part of Coral Morphologic’s name, as morphologic means having to adapt because the environment is always changing.  “I think when we can recognize that we’re all this one family of life and everything is interconnected, that hopefully we can make meaningful changes now, so that future generations don’t have to live in a world of wildfires and melted ice caps and dead oceans,” Foord said.  While this should be a non-partisan issue, how to achieve the goal is not.  Without making tough decisions resulting in tough change, we will continue to destroy the reef that keeps us safe.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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