Planet Earth is slowly being killed by the humans who inhabit it; the consequences of climate change can be visualized globally. One of the most visible examples of this phenom is the global bleaching of the Earth’s coral. Chasing Coral is a documentary on this issue, and how it is recorded. Coral is a living creature, and the rise of ocean temperatures is equivalent to a human fever. The documentary shows the process of obtaining this evidence in a more personal fashion, by having the researchers tell their story and how this journey affected them. Chasing Coral exposes the devastation of global coral bleaching through statistical evidence, personal connection, and giving a deeper look into the biology of these complex creatures.
In Chasing Coral, the Great Barrier Reef was the focal point in their investigation of coral bleaching being that it is the largest reef on planet Earth. Their studies show that in 2016 alone 29% of the Great Barrier Reef had succumb to this mass bleaching. Coral is highly sensitive to increases in temperature, and with the oceans starting to warm up reefs are in danger of disappearing. This mass bleaching has obliterated 80-90% of all reefs located in the Gulf of Mexico. Oceans take in 93% of all heat trapped in the atmosphere; at one point in the film the seawater around the Great Barrier Reef was 95 degrees fahrenheit. Temperatures that high are detrimental to corals, and the fish that call reefs their home. The researchers in the film predicted that if this increase in temperature continues its current path, in the next quarter of a century the seas will be too warm to sustain coral reefs. These statistical facts cement the urgency of the change that needs to be done to save this global ecosystem.
The most touching parts of this film were the personal accounts of the researchers and marine biologists involved. These were people whose passion for coral reefs could easily be seen through their emotions; adding these personal moments creates a connection with the audience. What is happening below the surface often goes unnoticed compared to what humans see on land. Chasing Coral is an attempt, by a team of talented, passionate individuals, to expose the devastation these corals face. Watching this team be brought to tears, after month of watching these reefs die first-hand, was extremely emotionally moving.
Corals themselves are highly complicated organisms. On the outside, coral barely seems like a living thing, but under the microscope their surfaces are teeming with life. Chasing Coral, is comprised of experts in marine biology, and they give insight on what is actually happening to the corals as they die. The cause of coral bleaching is the starvation of the organism itself; the microorganisms they feed off of are inedible at higher temperatures. Coral bleaching ultimately kills the coral, and the bleached effect seen is actually the skeleton of the coral itself.
Chasing Coral gives insight to the devastating effects of climate change. It exposes what goes on under the sea, and why it is happening in a factual, scientifically supported way. Personally, I have a lot of concern about our environment and its future. A couple years ago I did a reef tour in the waters surrounding the Turks and Caicos. The guides could only show us this one cluster of corals untouched by this global bleaching. Since I was a child the ocean has been a big part of my life, and seeing this death of coral in such a large scale saddens me. They predicted in the film that in twenty or so years corals could cease to exist, and to think that future generations might not be able to enjoy these natural wonders is almost as sad as the death of this ecosystem and its residents.
Orlowski, Jeff, director. Chasing Coral. Chasing Coral, Netflix, 2017, www.imdb.com/title/tt6333054/.