Gator Halpern is Co-Founder and President of Coral Vita, and a UN Young Champion of the Earth 2018.
Dive into a reef today and you’re likely to see lots of of algae-covered skeletons, with dead coral rubble covering the seafloor. We see the effects of climate change daily at Coral Vita, a mission-driven company restoring dying coral reefs. Due to impacts like pollution and overfishing, coupled with global stressors of warming and acidifying oceans, humans have killed 50% of our world’s coral reefs in just the past few decades. Without direct and immediate action against climate change, we will lose over 90% by 2050.
The loss of coral reefs directly affects communities globally, with reefs providing essential ecosystem services by sustaining fisheries, sheltering coastlines from storm surges, and powering tourism economies. Their loss is an ecological tragedy that threatens 25% of all marine life, a death sentence for all the fish, turtles, octopi, sharks and rays that call these reefs home. At Coral Vita, we are helping develop a reef restoration industry that can sustain reefs despite the threats they face. We are capable of growing billions of corals to bring reefs back to life, but unless we as a society decide to stop killing reefs and urgently address climate change, our work may well be in vain.
Sadly, while attending many leading summits aimed at addressing environmental issues I have found very little reason to believe our political, industrial, and non-profit leaders are going to sufficiently address climate change. As we United Nations meeting after United Nations meeting, ecosystems continue to degrade. For over 25 years delegates have talked about global warming, drafted resolutions to help stop it, shaken hands and patted each other on the back. Yet greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb as industries that imperil humanity’s long-term well being continue to receive trillions of dollars of subsidies.
To really make meaningful changes to stop catastrophic climate change we must act urgently, and our political leaders are not going to make it happen without us forcing them to. The only way to ensure we will create a world in balance with nature is for the young people of the Earth to take charge, and to take charge now.
We need to hold our politicians responsible, to march in the streets and to go on strike. We must only vote for politicians that actively address climate change and the loss of wildlife, and loudly protest against any that don’t. We must insist that nothing less than reversing climate change, restoring degraded ecosystems, and stopping the unsustainable exploitation of nature is acceptable.
The youth of the world need to write a new story for our future. One with shared and inspirational ideas about how the world should be. A story not of neoliberalism and economic growth at all costs, but a story of collaboration, a story of compassion, and a story of harmony with the natural world that sustains our very lives. If we can hold these shared goals in our generation’s collective consciousness, we have the power and the means to create the world we want to grow old in.