“Divers, scientists and photographers around the world mount an epic underwater campaign to document the disappearance of coral reefs.” - Netflix
“An emotional race against time.” – NY Times
“Chasing Coral is not impartial. It’s staunchly pro-life, in the truest sense of the term.” – Sam Fragoso, The Wrap
Winner of a Sundance Film Festival Audience Award
To produce Chasing Coral, divers, photographers, and scientists spent 650 hours underwater in 30 countries to capture and document the worldwide collapse of coral reefs. Director Jeff Orlowski focused on the effects of climate change on the oceans, which absorb 93% of the heat produced by greenhouse gases. Reef-building corals thrive when the temperature remains between 74 and 78 degrees F, but we now see ocean temperatures as high as 95 degrees. When water temperatures rise even two degrees, the distressed corals may eject the tiny single-celled algae living inside their bodies. Without the algae, corals appear bone-white, or “bleached.” And without the algae, corals begin to starve and die.
The goal of the Chasing Coral crew was to create a powerful and impelling video by showing changes to reefs in real time, using time-lapse photography to document the effects of too-warm water. The result is stunning. We see colorful, healthy, gorgeous “gardens” of corals – then ghostly-pale, sick corals – then dead, disintegrating corals covered with slimy, hairy algae.
Near the end of the documentary, the time lapse video of bleaching and dying corals is presented at the World Symposium on Coral Reefs in Honolulu, Hawaii. As the camera pans the audience (an audience of people who study and love coral reefs), we see people slowly shaking their heads as if they are saying, No, oh, no! Many people have their hands over their mouths or eyes; the corners of their mouths are visibly drawn downward; there are tears. (Their tears and my tears.)
The collapse of coral reefs is serious. They are the foundation of a huge, intricate ecosystem. One-quarter of all marine life is found on coral reefs. Half a billion to a billion people rely on reefs for their food; their culture, economy, and way of life rely on reefs. Many new drugs and new products and foods come from the sea. Reefs provide a breakwater that protects shores from dangerous storms. Coral reef communities are like underwater rainforests teeming with abundant and diverse life.
The loss of reefs (along with rising sea levels, violent storms, and famines) is too important to be politicized. We can address the warming of our planet and reduce the rate at which our climate is changing. Chasing Coral ends by reminding us that we have the money and the resources and the intelligence to tackle climate change. They provide ideas at chasingcoral.com.
“It’s not too late for coral reefs … indeed, for many other ecosystems that are facing challenges from climate change. It’s still possible to reduce the rate at which the climate is changing, and that’s within our power today.” – Dr Ove Hoegh-Guldberg – July, 2017
Toni Albert, M.Ed., is an award-winning author of more than 40 books. Her lifelong love for nature, children, and books inspired her to commit her publishing business, Trickle Creek Books, to “teaching kids to care for the Earth.”