Growing up in suburban Melbourne and Sydney, I’ve always considered the Great Barrier Reef a faraway treasure. Though I’ve never visited, images of colourful coral, pristine beaches and curious wildlife flood my mind when I think of our national icon. In my mind; it is exotic, precious, and untouchable.
So when I first learnt that the health of the Great Barrier Reef was under threat, I was outraged. And as the environmental movement’s struggle to protect the Reef has grown stronger and stronger, it’s become clear that I’m not alone.
A week after Reef authorities approved the dumping of 3 million cubic metres of dredge spoil inside the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, a passionate group of university students in the Australian Student Environment Network (ASEN) planned snap rallies around the country. Within a week, supported by Greenpeace, 350.org, Friends of the Earth and others, they were able to mobilise over 2,500 Australians to action.
At the Sydney rally, I wandered around the crowd taking photos and chatting to people about their involvement in the movement. I asked an incredibly diverse group of people – school children and activists, parents and senior citizens, tourists and locals – if there was any particular reason they wanted to save the Reef.
Many faltered, some rattled off long lists, and others lamented they had not yet had a chance to see the Reef and truly understand what was at stake.
All seemed to identify with one idea: the Great Barrier Reef should be untouchable. As a national icon, as a Natural Wonder of the World, as the largest living organism on Earth – the Reef should not be exploited by governments or multinational corporations.
This struggle did not end when the dredging was approved, and it will not end here. Join us now, as the campaign to save the Reef from coal ports and climate change grows stronger: www.savethereef.org