In my first post, I looked at the problems coral reefs are facing, and why it’s important for us to save them. In my second post, I shared different actions we can all take to protect and preserve coral reefs, as well as some big actions that researchers are taking. This post, I am going to share why / why not I believe those solutions are sustainable actions, and where I think we should go from here.
In my last post, I divided different potential solutions into 2 groups:
- Solutions that PROTECT & PRESERVE what’s left
- Solutions that RESTORE what was before
Most solutions that go under protecting and preserving existing coral reefs involve the average person making a small change. The idea is that a bunch of people making a small change can be a very powerful thing, and can cause a ripple effect (or a butterfly effect 😊). Specifically, these actions included:
- Choosing to eat sustainably sourced sea food
- Being cautious of the chemicals you discard into drains / other waterways
- Not purchasing gifts or jewelry made of coral / shells
- Avoiding sunscreens that include damaging chemicals
- Making sure not to touch coral or the ocean floor when diving
- And being conscious of you green house gas emissions
- Choosing to eat sustainably sourced sea food – Sustainableish
I personally believe that this is a great option, because it doesn’t require people to stop doing anything they were previously doing. We don’t have to stop eating sea food! All we have to do is be wary of the businesses we support.
I was curious to see if there is a significant price difference between sustainably sourced sea food and regular seafood, so I went on the Superstore website to find out. I chose Superstore because it’s my community grocery store, and I shop there very often. I chose 4 different brands of frozen cod, and after comparing the price per 100g, I came to the conclusion that there is not a significant difference. In fact, a lot of the frozen sea food at Superstore is sustainably fished! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the same amount of sustainably fished FRESH fish.
The sustainably fished cod:
The regular cod:
2.Being cautious of the chemicals you discard into drains / other waterways – sustainable for some
A good way to do this is by buying Environmentally friendly cleaning supplies. Similar to choosing to eat sustainably sourced sea food, buying environmentally friendly cleaning supplies doesn’t require people to stop doing anything they were previously doing. I wanted to check the price difference again though, to see if it would stop people from carrying out this action. I found a price difference. Here are some examples:
|Laundry detergent||Seventh generation brand
$0.50 per 100ml
$0.25 per 100ml
|Hand soap||Seventh generation brand
$1.98 per 100ml
$0.88 per 100ml
|Dish soap||Seventh generation brand
$0.58 per 100ml
$0.37 per 100ml
|Drier sheets||Method brand
$0.08 per sheet
$0.04 per sheet
|Glass cleaner||Seventh generation brand
$0.98 per 100ml
$0.65 per 100ml
I think that it might be hard for some families or individuals to be able to afford environmentally safe cleaning products because of the price difference. I honestly don’t have a huge understanding of cost of living and money in general, because I’m still just a teenager. However, some environmentally safe products are double the price of the regular ones. This is an action that could be sustainable or unsustainable, depending on your financial situation. Even so, if people do have the means to purchase these products, without so many harmful chemicals, they could be less effective than other options, which would discourage people from buying them.
3.Not purchasing gifts or jewelry made of coral / shells – Sustainable!
I think that this is something everyone can do that will have no big impact, or negative effect on our lives. I feel a bit hypocritical writing this, as I love the idea of a shell necklace, but it’s important to understand that these things belong in the ocean, not in our homes. There are a lot of different souvenirs someone can get that don’t involve taking things from the ocean.
- Avoiding sunscreens that include damaging chemicals – Depends
I remember that when I went to Mexico and we went snorkeling, the locals wouldn’t let us snorkel unless we only wore mineral based sunscreen. This sunscreen alternative was quite expensive compared to regular sunscreen, so I don’t see it as a realistic option for everyday use. Still, I think that the average person doesn’t swim in the ocean every day, let alone near a coral reef. For us here in Canada I think it would be reasonable to use this kind of sunscreen only when on vacation or swimming in our oceans. However, for people living in tropical locations near the water, I don’t see this being realistic. I assume that, if living near a warm ocean, people would swim almost every day during the summer (I know I would). In that case, people wouldn’t want to spend so much money on mineral based sunscreen for everyday use!
5.Making sure not to touch coral or the ocean floor when diving – Sustainable!
I am guilty of doing this one, as are many other tourists. As I said in my last post, it’s easy to get caught up in the whole magic of it all and forget that your actions can have a huge impact on the coral. I think this is a very sustainable action because it just requires people to be more aware.
6.And being conscious of your green house gas emissions
This is a very big umbrella topic, and it leads into a whole other discussion. Yes, it’s not hard to be conscious of your greenhouse gas emissions, but it is hard to change your habits if you realize you are emitting to many greenhouse gases.
In conclusion, I believe that most of these solutions that preserve and protect are sustainable for the majority of people. Even so, I don’t think that these are the answer to saving the coral reefs. Yes, it’s great if we can all do them, and it will help, but realistically, it’ll take a lot of good to neutralize all the bad things being thrown at coral reefs. And even if we do manage to protect coral reefs and keep them the same as they are today, it’s still not ideal. The state of our coral reefs today is not great, and the marine ecosystem is already on the brink of collapsing. So what else can be done?
This is where solutions that restore come into play. Solutions that restore are quite different. They usually require a team of specialists that work hard to figure out how to help coral reefs thrive like they once did. The two main actions under solutions that restore are:
- Coral growing
- Coral engineering
Coral growing seems like a very logical idea, and we’ve been doing it for a while now. But there are a few problems that make it unsustainable. With traditional coral growing methods, it can take a coral 3 years to regrow and another 25 to 75 years to reach an age where they can breed. It’s a great idea in theory, but when you look at the number of years it takes to grow a coral, I fear it might not be good in practise. In 75 years, there might not even be coral reefs to plant the new coral in! Plus, the new coral will have the exact same problems surviving as the dead coral did. It may buy us time, but it won’t solve the problem.
In 2018, scientists discovered a faster way to grow coral. As I discussed in my last research round, this process is called coral fragmentation, which involves breaking a piece of coral into tiny pieces. These pieces are said to grow back in 3 weeks rather than the 3 years it takes to grow coral regularly. This is still a fairly new method, and scientists are still trying to figure out the most efficient way to use it. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that this would only buy us time.(2)
This is the idea of genetically modifying coral to be able to withstand climate change. It’s sad to me that we haven’t been able to change our own ways, so we have turned to changing the way coral plants behave. If scientists are able to pull this off, there’s no doubt that it’ll make a huge difference, and could even be “the solution” everyone has been looking for.
However, it is very expensive. Van Oppen and Ruth Gates, the pioneers of this idea, were given 4 million dollars over the course of 5 years from one of the cofounders of Microsoft, in order to pursue their research. After these 5 years, the two scientists are still working to create the ultimate species of coral.
When looking at the amount of money spent and the amount of time it’s taken to make advancements in their research, these scientists might still have an expensive, long way to go. It’s important to keep in mind that this is a race against time, and that coral reefs are in more and more danger every second. Although this is a great idea, and I think that scientists should continue to work through it, coral engineering alone will not save us. It seems like “the solution” but in reality, it won’t help with anything until the research is complete.(3)
An important thing I realized is that even if scientists find a solution that will restore our coral reefs to what they were before, without taking measures to protect our oceans, we will end up in the same position we are now! That is why everyone should take action to protect coral reefs, even though it seems so small compared to what marine biologists are doing right now. Without a combines effort, we will never be able to save the coral reefs in time.
there isn’t one single solution that can neutralize all threats to coral reefs. We need to use a combination of all of these different actions. It’s going to be important to get everyone involved, whether they are scientists or average people! Different actions are sustainable for different people, and unsustainable for others. I honestly think that it’s better to pick 2 things that you can sustainably do rather than 4 things you can sometimes do. Consistency is key 😊.
It’s hard to say if the coral reefs will ever be back to the scale and health they once were. They have suffered a lot of damage. All we can do is do our part and hope that it will be enough!
Thank you for reading my research and I wish you all the best,