Socialist Worker

It’s the end of the Great Barrier Reef—and it will now be used for a coal port

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2526

Dying coral

Dying coral (Pic: Flickr)

Swathes of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral have died after a devastating “bleaching” event triggered by ocean warming this year. It is one of a series of alarming signs of capitalism driving whole ecosystems to destruction.

Researchers from the Climate Council in Australia returned to the reef to see if it had recovered.

Around half the bleached coral were dead. Others left too weak to resist predators had declined further since the bleaching. The reef is less diverse. Survivors are mostly of compact “brain coral” species while more delicate “plate coral” are collapsing and fewer fish species are found.

Ian Angus, editor of the Climate and Capitalism website, visited the reef this summer.

He told Socialist Worker, “It’s even scarier when you realise Australia’s government plans to build the world’s biggest coal port right on top of it.”

He explained, “Life works in cycles, with everything in balance with everything else. Every species we wipe out tips the balance a bit further.”

Giant pandas were officially downgraded from “endangered” status to merely “vulnerable” last month.


But Ian warned, “A lot of the discussion around biodiversity centres on the big and visible.

“Those big mammals are important. But we’re killing off microorganisms at the same rate, which has huge implications for the soil and all the life that depends on it.”

Decline in bee populations passed a new milestone this month, when seven yellow-faced bee species became the first added to the US endangered list.

Insect expert Ted Benton told Socialist Worker, “About a third of what we eat depends on bees cross-pollinating plants.

“The decline of bees is creating a pollination crisis for agriculture. And it’s the intensification of agriculture itself that’s driving bees towards extinction—undermining its own existence.

“The bees are the canaries in the coal mine—we need to do something really radical.”

Benton and Angus spoke at a very succesful day school on Marxism and Nature hosted by the International Socialism journal last Saturday, which attracted some 150 people.

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Article information

Tue 18 Oct 2016, 16:41 BST
Issue No. 2526
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