Saving Nemo

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
- Native American Proverb

The first breath-- between the molecules of water clinging to each other like long lost lovers, the green hue of the plankton floating in front of your goggles, the peace in shutting out the bustle of the terrestrial ecosystem above, and the comfort of the soft pops of your CO2 bubbles rising up to the surface, allowing you to experience, to explore beauty you never thought existed-- leaves you in complete tranquility. You’re suspended in the serenity of floating in the ocean, away from the trivial troubles of the chaotic land. You meditate as the light hits a school of translucent fish as they switch directions, a ripple of photons warming each individual body and stealing your breath. You want to stay under the water for eternity, gliding along with eagle rays as they swoop above your head, laughing as turtles swim in circles around you, gasping at the delicacy of warm, colorful corals filling the sea bed. But you can’t because soon, too soon, your air level is at 40 and it’s time to abandon this breathtaking world, leaving it to the demise of pollution and waste, hoping that when you return, the web of symbiosis will remain the same.

I fell in love with diving when I was ten years old. Having just let my feet free from the flippers, pushing myself up the boat after my first sighting of rainbow fish, life couldn’t be better. My cheeks burnt a vibrant red and the salt in my hair stiffened my curls, but I was already ready to do a back roll back into the sea and drop down to the purple corals of Koh Samui off the coast of Thailand. The ocean became my solace; the excitement of being able to explore a whole different world overwhelmed me, and I itched to experience the tranquility in searching for Ariel and Flounder. 

At fifteen, I fell in love with the ocean once again. The dives in Muscat, Oman, reignited that spark within me that relates to the depth and mystery of the ocean. Muscat’s water is warm. The eels sing in between the corals and the seahorses float amongst schools of fish and it is impossible not to fall in love. The ocean is the epitome of beauty, encompassing the serenity of peace.

Sitting in AP Biology in tenth grade, my teacher told us of the sorrowful fate of the ocean. We learned of the immense coral bleaching that is occurring in oceans around the world because of global warming. He told us of the bacteria shooting out of coral cells due to an excess of photons hitting the water, breaking apart the symbiotic bond between the bacteria and the coral, ultimately destroying this delicate ecosystem. Corals are great resources for an array of organisms. Eels use them for shelter, lobsters hide between the vibrant colors, and small fish feed on coral polyps. With the bleaching of corals, the marine ecosystem is changing drastically.

In the summer of 2016, I became a certified Advanced Open Water Scuba Diver. The deeper into the sea I delved, the deeper I fell in love. The ocean was still as vibrant as before-- turtles swooped between us as they searched for food, reef sharks delved into caves, eels sung their silent songs in between corals of brown and grey-- but as we drifted farther above the corals in the midst of a rich ecosystem, we came across a sea of abandoned white corals, dead, cold, and unsustainable. 

As soon as I saw the white corals, it brought me back to the moment in class. The intensity of the problem dawned upon me. In the fall of 2016, the Great Barrier Reef was pronounced relatively dead by scientists. 20 percent of the reef was bleached due to global warming, a dangerous climate for marine organisms. With the ocean being my amenity, this news hit me close to my heart. 

The problem in coral bleaching lies in the extinction and endangerment of a mass of marine species that could alter life under the sea. Corals are key niches in the fragile ecosystem of the sea. If taken out of the equation, a large portion of marine organisms that depend on corals for daily life will be unable to survive. As the earth gets warmer, more marine organisms are viable to go extinct. In fact, many ecological scientists believe that the Earth is pushing through its sixth mass extinction as you sit reading this. And, of course, the mass extinction is occurring because of humans. 

The more energy people expend in their everyday life, the higher the temperature climbs. With high temperatures, more photons are released. These photons hit sea surfaces, speed through the molecules of hydrogen and oxygen, and attack corals until they spit out the microorganism allowing them to function. The root of the problem is humans' abuse of natural resources. To stop the problem, humans must stop resolving to the abeyance of "one person conserving water will not save the world" and start to acknowledge the consequences of their actions. As a scuba diver, I plan to participate in underwater cleanups to help the marine environment. However, scuba diving and big time expenses are not the only thing that could help stop coral bleaching. We must work together to limit our greenhouse gas use, conserve water, and stop water pollution. We can do these things by walking short distances rather than using cars, not leaving taps running, finding better means of handling sewage rather than dumping it into the sea, and not throwing out trash that could kill marine organisms.

My AP chemistry teacher once told me that when choosing a career, we should not rely only on our passion; we should find a problem we want to fix in this world and coincide it with our passion.  I intend to study the web of biology and discover opportunities to prevent the further destruction of Mother Earth. I also intend to write about the consequences humans are setting forth that are leading to this multitude of unfortunate events. While oblivion is bliss, declarative sentences tend to speak the truth. The truth is that we are destroying the only thing sustaining our lives.

         The problem began because of humans. It is our responsibility to try and fix it by any means possible. We see that although terrestrial and marine ecosystems seem unconnected, every change on land affects the fragility of the sea. My goal is to some day not have to worry about losing Nemo, my children never being able to look for Ariel, or of losing my solace, my amenity - the peaceful, jubilant sea.

Text by Dvita Kapadia and Visual by Jasmin Yeganeh Garousi

1 comment

  1. Living in a beach town, I appreciate and understand this so much. I really love this.