It was sobering to have internationally-acclaimed reef scientist Charlie Veron on board the ship for the past few days. The campaigners and crew on board had the opportunity to hear from the man who has discovered 20% of the world’s coral species how dire the situation really is for the coral reefs of the worlds. Charlie explained how these fragile ecosystems are already struggling as a result of over-fishing and rising sea termperatures, and warned that our own incredible, immense Great Barrier Reef will be irreparably destroyed if we do not change our current greenhouse pollution trajectory very rapidly. In fact the words he used were “the corals will be replaced by bacterial slime and the biodiversity will be lost forever”.

The situation is so grave that Charlie quit his tenured position as chief scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Scientist. He has decided that “the world doesn’t need scientists anymore, what it needs is action”, and has left in search of ways to take his message about the urgency of climate change out to as many people as possible.

Listening to him speak, I am struck by the terrible burden of knowledge this man possesses. He has been diving on the Reef since he was 18 years old, and has watched it and many other reefs around the world be desecrated and destroyed as sharks and large fish species disappear due to over-fishing, reefs are bombed with explosives to catch fish, and corals bleach and die as the sea temperatures rise. Now, climate change threatens to be the final nail in the coffin of our coral reefs.

I can also see that the hardest part for him is bearing witness to this destruction alone; so few people understand or are willing to listen. And it makes me wonder what the Australian people might do if they could open their hearts and minds for a moment and allow themsleves to understand what is actually happening around us as a result of climate change. Are we really prepared to stand by and let our Reef be destroyed while we busy ourselves with our daily lives? Or are we just clinging stubbornly to a convenient ignorance? What would it take for Australians to finally say no, we’ve had enough, we want our children to be able to experience the same beauty in this world that we have, and we demand leadership from our government to ensure that happens?