Everybody remembers their first dive. Well, take pity on me because my first dive was in Ireland, back in the 70s. I had no idea how great the underwater world could look until I moved to Australia, where I eventually made a living diving and educating people about the Great Barrier Reef.
I’ve seen a lot in my time, and the Reef itself has changed me in some big ways. Back in 1998, I thought climate change was some far-off thing happening in the future. But when I saw coral going from fantastic pink and orange colours to dead, bleached white – well let’s just say I understood: this is real and it’s happening now.
Nothing could strike me as more stupid than building a new mine for the dirtiest fuel we have, and putting it next to the Great Barrier Reef. You too? Great, let’s stop it.
Paddy Colwell, Irish marine biologist and school teacher living in Cairns
I’m not the only lad irked by all this. I’ve got mates who work the coal boats down at Gladstone and they tell me about the dust coming off, coating the surface of the water on a windy day. It’s obvious that this stuff is bad for the sea and marine life. The guys feel it should be managed better – but when transporting stuff like coal, the companies do it the cheapest way possible. That’s what companies do because they put profit first.
It all gets you thinking, what the hell are we doing? I may not be the biggest greenie, but I’ve been a Greenpeace supporter for a while now and I think it’s going to take all of us to stop this new coal mine and educate people about what’s really going on.
Greenpeace have a cracking campaign ready to put the eyes of the world firmly on what’s happening up here, and if we all get behind it, all the dirty money and political tricks in the world won’t be able to stop us.
Today, I’m a science teacher for a local high school, and I live for the moments when you take a group of kids out to the Reef and one of them turns to you and says, ‘that was the best day of my life.’ I want my kids, and everybody’s kids, to have the chance to experience that.
Paddy Colwell is a diver, marine biologist, and a science teacher for a local high school in Cairns, QLD. He was recently featured on ABC’s Life on the Reef documentary series.