May 3, 2010
PO Box #6334
Coral Reefs: Destroying Ancient Beauty, an Ethical Problem
Coral reefs are some of the world’s liveliest, diverse, and most remarkable ecosystems on the planet. From the most well known Great Barrier reef, to other reefs that occupy seashores, coral reefs remain one of the world’s natural habitats that rival the rainforests in their longevity and life. Something that has seemingly been taken advantage of by tourists and nature lovers alike, the coral reefs may be disappearing faster than the rainforests (Scales). According to the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2009 put out by the Australian Govt., every major aspect of the Great Barrier Reef, from chemical makeup, ecosystem health, fish and organism population has dropped significantly in the last 10 years and sees no hopes of rising within the near future. Other coral reefs across the world are suffering the same fates, and to some experts, the reefs will be gone by mid-century (Adam). And if the coral reefs go, they take one-third of the ocean’s biodiversity with it (Adam). Is there any hope? This paper will investigate what the reefs are and the purpose they serve, the science behind the deterioration of the reefs, possible solutions (including pros and cons); and how one’s Christian ethical worldview should stand on such an issue. Can the Christian stand for such things? How does one understand, cope, and deal with this ethical conundrum?
First what are corals and coral reefs. Corals are not plants, but are animals closely related to sea anemones and jellyfish. They have tiny tentacles with which they can sting and consume fish and small animals. They are found throughout the world’s oceans such as the Indian and Pacific oceans. Some corals can exist in the ocean without even being seen by the naked eye. When corals come together and form large communities, is when they are best known and can be viewed most effectively. In places like the Caribbean, Indian and Pacific Oceans, the corals form with tiny algae. The algae play a vital role, as they photosynthesize, and create food for the coral. The coral in return provide the algae with the carbon dioxide they need for the photosynthesis to occur. The corals secrete the mineral calcium carbonate, and it’s from this where they form their exoskeleton. Another type of algae, which produces calcium carbonate, forms a kind of concrete for the exoskeleton. The process is quite unique, with dead corals leaving their calcium skeleton behind as limestone. However, this crust is not indestructible, and suffers attacks from fish that brush by their algae. Animals use their large expansive communities as homes, and waves constantly break them apart. Coral reefs serve as home and habitat to thousand of organisms and fish species. As mentioned before, should the coral reefs disappear, they would take one-third of the Ocean’s biodiversity with it. However, the coral has remained in a consistent balance of destruction and rebuilding for millions of years whilst still serving as a proper home. Until humans came along and changed things to a point of irreversibility.
“Estimates in this report are that 20% of the world’s coral reefs have been effectively
destroyed and show no immediate prospects of recovery”, according to the Status of Coral Reefs of the World 2004: Report. According to that same report, 24% of the world’s reefs are under immediate risk of destruction through direct human influence, and another 26% are under a longer term watch, but just as dangerous risk of collapse. Among these human influences, the report states poor land management practices that are releasing more sediment, nutrients and other pollutants into the water that harm the reefs. 20-30 years ago, the world’s reefs were a much more sustainable, healthy ecosystem of life. But industry and economy have caused reef stress, and while the resort and...