False death of Great Barrier Reef causes social media outrage

Kaitlyn Steinhiser, Editor

Thanks to an online article published by Outside Magazine titled “Obituary: Great Barrier Reef (25 million BC-2016),” over 1.41 million people believed that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is dead when it is still very much alive.

The article began with a thorough description of the reef and its sheer size and glory, describing its large population of dugong and the fact that it is the largest breeding ground for green turtles. Outsider then began to describe the importance of the reef in past tense, saying that, “To say the reef was an extremely active member of its community is an understatement. The surrounding ecological community wouldn’t have existed without it.”

The fact that the reef was “extremely active” in the growth of its surrounding ecosystem is absolutely true, but, it is still active today. Although the article claimed that the reef died due to “mass bleaching.” Although mass bleaching, which is caused by climate change heating up the ocean waters, does occur near the reef, it has not yet killed the reef itself.

Despite the fact that, like all of the other coral reefs in the world, the Great Barrier Reef is under severe stress, the Reef has not been destroyed yet. Kim Cobb, a coral reef expert at Georgia Tech,  is disappointed in the article’s ability to skew the public’s opinion. “This is a fatalistic, doomsday approach to climate change that is not going to engage anyone and misinforms the public. There will be reefs in 2050, including portions of the Great Barier Reef, I am pretty confident of that. I am put off by pieces that say we are doomed,” said Cobb.

Not only did the article falsely declare the death of the reef, but it discredited all efforts made to save the reef. No one knows if a serious effort at the time could have saved the reef, but it is clear that no such effort was made,” said the story in bolded, large font.

This is yet another example of false information spread by this article. The Queensland government just recently declared their support for an 8.2 billion Australian dollar cleanup project that will span over a decade. The project itself will be based on recommendations made by the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Task Force report. Not only will this benefit the environment, but it will support over 70,000 Australian jobs and benefit Australia economically as well.

Areas of the reef that are not helped through this initiative will, hopefully, revive themselves. Despite warm water, some corals are able to adapt to the environment. This eliminates the need for human, environmental intervention.

Not only would this save money and time, but it would prevent an uproar from Facebook environmentalists, thus stopping the flow of misinformation across the Internet.

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