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Inconvenient Truth: 70% of the worlds’ coral reefs are threatened or destroyed...but some Florida men have an idea

On Sunday evening my family and I often watch a show called Big Ideas for a Small Planet. It's a Redford/Sundance initiative.

I like it because it provides both problems and solutions; moreover, they are usually realistic, "I can do that!" solutions. Plus, it makes me hopeful. I think we all need to feel hopeful about the environment. If we feel hopeful, we don't feel powerless. If we don't feel powerless, we think there is something we can do, and every little bit helps.

Last night's episode was called Pray (webisodes available here), and was about the stewardship of the earth and faith. There were a variety of segments within the episode, but one in particular caught my attention: the destruction of reefs across the globe due to global warming, man's negligence, hostile environment and so on.

Here's a little background about reefs:
Coral Reefs are the oldest, most complex ecosystems on earth. They are home to more kinds of life than any other ocean environment and rival the tropical rainforests on land. They have existed for well over 200 million of years and achieved their current level of biologic diversity 50 million years ago. These majestic underwater worlds are home to some of the world's most colorful and diverse life forms including fish, hard and soft corals, sponges, jellyfish, anemones, snails, rays, crabs, moray eels, lobsters, sea turtles, dolphins, and seabirds. However, most coral reefs are now threatened with extinction due to a combination of impacts that are particular to each reef, depending upon the use and upland activities affecting it.

Source: Reef Relief (click here for a link to more specific information about reefs and threats to reefs)

70% of reefs are dead or dying:
According to the Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2004, 70% of the worlds’ coral reefs are threatened or destroyed, 20% of those are damaged beyond repair, and within the Caribbean alone, many coral reefs have lost 80% of coral species. The decline and loss of coral reef ecosystems has significant social, economic, and ecological impacts on people and communities in the U.S. and around the world.

Source: US Coral Reef Task Force

In fact, it's happening so quickly that you can observe massive changes and destruction in a mere decade.

When two young men observed this, they decided to do something about it.
In the late 1980's a pair of college roommates from the University of Georgia often went diving off the Keys in Florida on breaks. Over the years of diving they saw significant deterioration and degradation of the reefs they were visiting.

These young men decided to research a way to create something that would not only mimic naturally occurring reefs, but would stimulate and support existing reefs and marine life.

They created Eternal Reefs, which, in short, casts cremated remains with concrete into a carefully planned shape that mimics reefs.
The reasons for choosing an Eternal Reef as a final memorial are as varied as the individuals and families making the choice. Rather than passing an urn down to future generations, or taking space in a cemetery, this memorial is a true living legacy.

Military veterans, environmentalists, fishermen, sailors, divers, and people who have been active all their lives or whose lives has been cut short, are all comforted by the thought of being surrounded by all that life and action going on around them.

This memorial option costs between $1000 and $6000, and protects marine environments without using any governmental money. Don Brawley, founder of Eternal Reefs, Inc. says it is an ideal way to leave a legacy that not only doesn't pollute the earth (as traditional burial does---embalmed remains and chemically treated caskets) but that, in fact, improves it.

They've successfully placed over 300 eternal reefs since 2001. The reefs appear successful within the marine environment. Schools of fish seemed right at home, and some eternal reefs sported little starts of natural coral reef growing on them.

What do you think about this?

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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Why is it that my first thought is that these will one day prove to have lead in them or some one will use them to disguise toxic waste in the center?

I'm far too cynical right now.
Anonymous said…
Very intersting concept. I love when individuals come up with ways to get the private sector to do what the public sector does not want to step up and take care of.
Christine said…
i think it is a great idea, though the long term effects wait to be seen. but they are working towards a great goal and i think it is an admirable pursuit.
Unknown said…
well, I'm not sure, but I am very interested in changing the way we handle death and burials, so our sake and the sake of the earth.
Julie Pippert said…
I'll be honest: I like the concept. Like Karen, we need to handle death and burials in a more friendly way, so to speak.


I don't think it's for me.

The idea of The Great Deep disturbs me in life; the idea of my remains spending eternity? I don't know; feels like a punishment to me for me. ;)

I do like the concept though!
Kyla said…
I totally agree with Jenny. Isn't it a shame that is where our brains go these days?

But an interesting concept for sure. I just know I don't want to be buried in the ground. Worms and bug CREEP ME OUT.
Sunshine said…
I almost drown in the ocean when I was 9, so don't sign me up for that, however I'm all about cremation anyway, but to get scattered somewhere, not sitting on anybody's living room mantle in an urn. Ick.

Rebuilding reefs is an excellent idea, however, and finding these options for our largest ecosystem is probably long overdue.

Like I said on my blog, let's ask John Edward! lol
I would do it. I definitely don't want to be buried in the ground so having my ashes put into the ocean (one of my favorite and most peaceful locations) sounds like a great alternative for me!
Laura said…
My hubby and I are updating our wills and burial options came up. We both agree that we would like a more eco-friendly manner bury. But I wonder like the other comments, what are the long term effects and such. Interesting though. Thank you for sharing, I am going to go look for the entire programe to review.
Well, it's a different spin on the theme presented in the movie my hubby and I just watched - The Fountain (he reviews it on his blog) - which is basically the old theme of "ashes to ashes to dust to dust to compost to trees to birds". Body as part of the food chain, more or less. Matter becoming energy again.

But, if I had a choice, I'd rather be a tree. Fish freak me out.

However, the problem of the disappearing reefs is both sad and frightening. As long as we're doing whatever we can to mitigate any damage (such as making sure that we aren't making reefs of lead paint, lol) I think that it's a noble experiment that should be watched closely.
Kellan said…
It is a solution to a growing problem - I like this solution. See you soon, Julie.
Liv said…
This is a great idea. I wouldn't mind being dead and promoting sustainable reefs one bit.
Anonymous said…
I think there is something very natural about all of those cells and molecules returning to the place from where they emerged millions of years, ago. Yet, I'm terrified of the sea, so winding up there fro all eternity would surely mean I have gone to hell. I would prefer a green burial, like Nate had in Six Feet Under. It doesn't help rebuild reefs, but at least it's closer to sealing that come from the earth return to the earth circle.
flutter said…
interesting. I'd have to read more on it
Lawyer Mama said…
I love the idea in theory. I want to be cremated. But the idea of being encased in concrete isn't very poetic. But hey, being part of the ocean for all eternity is....
dharmamama said…
I really love the idea. Why does the name "Eternal Reef" make me giggle? I have long felt a deep connection to the ocean, so having my container end up there doesn't bother me one bit. Did you know the salinity of a woman's amniotic sac is the same as the salinity of most oceans? We're really all one.

Love folks stepping in with creative ideas!
painted maypole said…
wow. i think that's cool. I love the ocean and reefs (sharks being my favorite animal and all) and I plan to be cremated, because I hate the idea of taking up space and someone having to tend to my grave. The idea of being turned into a reef? Too cool. I may need to tell my husband. Forget about scattering my ashes. May I live forever with the sharks...
Anonymous said…
I think it really depends on where the reef is situated at. Many places mightn't be conducive to the effort (which is a noble one).

Australia has the biggest coral reef in the world. I (and this is my very personal opinion) think that the best thing that can be done - for us - is for our government to ratify Kyoto. Which it won't. Which is why I want the opposition to win in our elections on the weekend. Because (they say) they WILL ratify Kyoto.

Slightly off topic?! Sorry....
Anonymous said…
I like the idea of contributing to the rebuilding of the reefs but at the same time, the idea of not having a marker or headstone at a cemetary seems like shortchanging my decendants. And after seeing how tough it was when my father-in-law passed to have to make all those arrangements at such an emotional time, my wife & I decided to pre-pay for our plots...
Rachel said…
What a fascinating idea!
I'm all for cremation, I actual find burials and cemetaries bizarre.. I get it why... it's just weird to me. But, I was raised in a 'cremation' family.
Really interesting. I love reading about individuals who are trying out new ideas for preserving our future.
thanks for the information!
This is actually what I want done w/ me when I die. My family and husband all think I am nuts.
Sukhaloka said…
Oh, I want to MAKE this a mainstream method of handling the dead by the time I die!
And obviously have my remains put there - duh! Not "ashes to ashes, dust to dust", but simply "from Nature and back". It sounds beautiful to me.

Well, unless I'm healthy enough to go for organ donation.
erm, I'm still thinking about a biologist I want to be sure that this is actually HELPING and not harming the corals. How do they do put them in? What kind of other things are mixed in with the remains that might leach out and cause problems? Otherwise, I'm all for it...
Anonymous said…
I think it's a cool idea. Thanks for the info.

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