Plastic clogs waste streams, poisons aquatic organisms, and litters landscapes. On April 22nd, 2018, more than one billion people from around the world will celebrate Earth Day and focus on reducing plastic pollution. Everyday citizens are taking action, and the majority of PenPals also believe that individuals are responsible for protecting the environment.
This week, we celebrate Ekaterina from Russia, Mauro from Italy, Hanisah, Magdalena, and Shamser from Malaysia, and Amani, Molly, and Mariam from the USA as our PenPals of the Week. They participated in Protecting the Planet with students from around the world to learn about environmental issues ranging from oil drilling to poaching. These PenPals took a deep dive on the topic of coral bleaching and surfaced with ideas to spread awareness and inspire action.
Hanisah was so fascinated by coral reefs that she conducted further research and shared more information with her PenPals.
“Coral reefs are the most beautiful thing you'd see underwater. They are built by colonies of tiny underwater animals from stony corals, which in turn consist of polyps that cluster in groups. Coral reefs are found in more than 100 countries around the world. Most reefs are located between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, in the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf. Corals are also found farther from the equator in places where warm currents flow out of the tropics, such as in Florida and southern Japan.”
The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is one of the most unique ecosystems in the world, but suffers from coral bleaching.
“I think that the bleaching of The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is a big problem for everybody. This phenomenon can cause the complete destruction of that ecosystem which is completely different from any other in the world. It's like cutting down every single tree in the Amazon Rainforest.”
Coral bleaching impacts not just the marine food chain, but also human medical practices, the tourism industry, and weakens one of our first lines of defense from natural disasters.
“I once read that ‘Once the coral is dead, the reefs will also die and erode, destroying important marine life spawning and feeding grounds.’ It is very true and if that happens, people like fishermen, cashiers and store owners could lose their jobs. It's all because the coral reefs died, causing the fish to die, so there are no fish for anyone who eats ocean fish to eat, even animals! This affects the food chain and is why we should try help stop the coral reef bleaching.”
PenPals aren’t just learning about environmental issues; they are brainstorming ways to solve those issues together. Magdalena thinks that one of the best ways to spread awareness and appreciation is to give people first hand experiences of coral reef ecosystems.
“We can convince more people to care about coral reefs by holding programs about the importance of coral reefs and organizing diving activities so that people can see the beauty of coral reefs at the bottom of the sea. Many people can appreciate the unique creation of God.”
Ekaterina proposes posters and exhibitions to communicate the effects of coral bleaching.
“I think to convince more people to take care of coral reefs, we need to create many posters with inscriptions urging to take care of coral reefs, for example - you can show the coral reef before and after discoloration, with the inscription ‘Let's not pollute the ocean. We'll save the coral reefs together.’ Or you can also hold exhibitions with pictures of coral reefs and information that it is very important to protect coral reef, because their discoloration can lead to serious climate change.”
Molly and Mariam argue that technologies like social media and PenPal Schools can spread awareness through mediums that students are already frequenting.
“I think that if people created more articles, movies, and games that talk and explain the dangers of coral bleaching, then our tech-savvy community might acknowledge the extreme danger that coral reefs are in. The community we live in revolves their life around technology, and if we put more coral reef awareness in technology then people might notice and care.”
Earth Day is right around the corner, but these PenPals recognize that environmental education and preservation is a long term commitment. Individuals should understand global environmental issues and explore actionable solutions for the local level. These PenPals are spreading awareness in their communities for Earth Day and beyond!
Want your students to explore earth's many environmental wonders, challenges, and brainstorm solutions? Enroll your class in these projects before their start dates.