The Great Barrier Reef is a world that once existed beyond the reach of humanity; our evolution was not to disturb the colours and tentacles that glide about accompanied by warm currents and sharks.
The 2300km long infrastructure has a natural symbiosis that human beings can only dream of attaining. Each coral and spine has evolved to work with the general acidity, water temperature and motion that have existed for eons, until Humans thundered in like a meteor.
The catastrophically impressive intent on economy over beauty, on development over status quo, on Man (as it mainly has been men) over Nature is something of an irony that, as time goes by, becomes less and less amusing, and more and more suicidal. Our success at overwhelming all corners of Earth, will be at the cost of almost all natural things, unless our economy needs them.
In a last ditch attempt to arrest the decline we have symbolically barriered off the last remnants, creating World Heritage Sites and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. How meaningful can a label be, especially when confronted by greed inspired capitalism? The notion of wilderness only exists in the poetry of dreamers and explorers from the past. The pristine and virginal now only refer to small areas of the Amazon, Antarctica, deserts and maybe a few mountain peaks, only because we have not yet altered the climate enough or discovered an economically viable reason to invade these places, although battle lines have been drawn across many. If industry had its way would the Amazon still exist?
The Earth is not ours to concrete, however its destiny is now in our hands; and as such we are now in the Anthropocene – where we, Humans, guide the look and feel of our planet. Considering that Human’s appear to be content on as much destruction and construction as possible, unable to understand the long-term consequences of our voracious appetite for stuff, it seems that it is only a matter of time before we outgrow our own inadequate planet.
And then we will plunder our Solar System. Does it perhaps make more sense to be doing this now? Making use of barren rocks and planets rather than destroying the only inhabitable sphere in this part of the galaxy.
Our planet’s beautiful flora and fauna is instantly recognisable, and the online library of images that apparently leave people breathless at the variety and inventiveness of Nature, may all too soon become a historical catalogue of what once was. We cannot see what a prehistoric Europe looked like, we only know from fossil records that large beasts roamed, that forests breathed the fresh air and that a few Human Beings, alongside Neanderthals, marvelled at the stars, and shivered at the coldness of Winter.
We can, however, witness the beauty of The Great Barrier Reef, its shimmering shifting breathtaking and brittle ecosystem, via millions of professional and amateur images that litter our digital society. Understanding the science beneath each analogue and digitally etched moment should give us some realisation, but that would involve caring, and how do you make people care about nature over money, care about sharing the planet over owning more, care about what simple actions today will look like in 100 years.
Australia’s “need” for coal is criminal considering the abundance of sunshine, and therefore alternative energy. But then most living today who could do something about the continued ambivalence towards environmental destruction have their photo, so they’ve been there, done that.