Published: 1st May 2017
In an unprecedented move, the team behind the Asia Dive Expo, UW360, made a bold decision to highlight the issue of climate change at this year’s expo in Singapore (April 7-9). Typically, the expo themes have focused on endangered, charismatic species whose plight is highlighted throughout the event. Bringing climate change to the forefront of the conversation is timely; 2016 was the third hottest year on record, and we are in the midst of an unmatched two-year global coral bleaching event. There are few divers out there who are unaware of the issue of climate change and what it means for the world’s favourite underwater playground, the coral reef.
Photo credit: em>The Ocean Agency / XL Catlin Seaview Survey / Stephanie Roach.
We all know reefs are under threat, many of us divers have seen first-hand the effects on our reefs, the changes in megafauna distribution, not mention extreme weather events. Tackling this issue presents a monumental challenge, and it can be hard to grasp how we can, as individuals, join the ‘fight’ in a meaningful way.
More and more, research is showing us that the saying ‘think global, act local’ rings true for climate issues. Coral reefs are highly adaptable ecosystems, a gift from high levels biodiversity allowing different members of an ecosystem to adapt and progress. However, local threats reducing that biodiversity hamper nature’s natural ability to survive. Diving and snorkelling tourism can occur intensively on some of the world’s best reefs, and whilst it offers an alternative to extractive uses of those resources - like fishing, or coral mining - it brings its own threats. Anchoring, marine debris and direct contact from divers and snorkelers all chip away at a reef’s ability to tolerate, adapt, be resilient to climate change. But remove those threats, and you have a stronger ecosystem that can withstand the changes of the future.
The ‘Unbleach’ campaign launched by Reef-World, Green Fins international coordinators, at ADEX 2017 took a unique approach of ‘artivism’ to bring this message of hope straight into the hands of divers. The public at ADEX could visit the Green Fins booth and learn about what bleaching is and what actions they can take immediately. By diving with Green Fins members, following environmental guidelines and taking a pledge to be more responsible tourist, they can start on the path to responsible tourism and minimise the effects of bleaching events in the future. Driving this message home was a collaborative piece with ADEX’s Climate Change Ambassador - AG Saño - whose bleached reef art installation was brought back to life by those visitors who committed to save our reefs one dive at a time! All the visitors were encouraged to jump in the wave of sustainable diving and show that to the world by purchasing promotional T-shirts pledging to ‘Dive for change’.
Reef-World would like to thank the UW360 team, and AG Saño for his amazing work, this collaboration proved once again that art can be used for conservation purposes in order to look for a bigger behavioural change.