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Byron Shire
September 20, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box – Killing Wonder

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She’s dead. At just 25 million years. It’s a tragedy. A human being should never outlive one of the natural wonders of the world. That would be like seeing Everest crumble, or the Victoria Falls dry up, the Northern Lights go out and the Grand Canyon turn to dust.

She should not have died. We could have saved her. We knew it was happening but we did nothing. We let the government and the coal industry rape her, and now she’s dead. She still had so much life left to give.

The glorious, vibrant and oh so colourful Great Barrier Reef is gone. Fishes once darted through her technicolour reef forest, striped sea snakes tickled their tummies on her outreaching fronds and every year around about now she spawned coral in what can only be described as an underwater snowstorm.

She gave so much to so many. She had so much to offer. She was diverse. She was connected. She was a place where so many once felt safe. She was home. From her long flowing seagrass, to her mangroves, her sand, her algal and sponge gardens and her world-renowned interreefal marine life, she wasn’t like anywhere else.

She loved fish and had more than I’d ever seen – 1,625 different species to be exact. Thirty different types of whales and dolphins. She even kept molluscs, those creepy phylum of invertebrates. She didn’t judge. She welcomed them all. She was unbelievably beautiful. A natural beauty.

I remember the first time I saw her. It was a balmy summer’s day in the Whitsundays; I put my head underwater and I saw her. It was like nature’s acid trip. I couldn’t take it in. She was a technicolour explosion of life. She was a world that I could visit, but I didn’t belong to. I felt privileged to be there.

I swam to the surface and I screamed. She was so intense, so encompassing, so much more incredible than I thought she was going to be. She was a religious experience. A turtle swam past me and I cried. Here I was, bobbing around in the ocean surrounded by her. She was ancient and she was constantly being reborn all at the same time. She was sacred.

Now she’s gone. My children will never see her. They will see pictures of her but it’s not the same as her. The vibrant, alive, sensual experience of her. She was so generous. She welcomed two million visitors each year and I complain when I get two. She was a contributor. She generated $6 billion a year for the people on her shores. She supported 69,000 jobs.

Now she lies still. Silent. Her colourful coral bleached like old bones. Her sad white corpse floating in the ocean just off the Queensland coast. A reminder of she who was killed. Her stinking body. Where you once smelt sea spray and salt, now there is a ‘stench of death’. It is the smell of millions of rotting animals. It is the smell of the quarter of her that died just last year.

How do you dispose of a body this big? How do we bury this Coral Sea Wilderness that stretched for 2,250 kilometres, whose natural world was bigger than the whole United Kingdom, composed of 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands?

So what happened? Who is responsible? Well, all of us, and some of us. Coral bleaching is killing the reef. It’s caused by a rise in sea temperature that in turn kills the algae that give the reef its vibrant colours. So to the climate-change deniers, maybe it’s time to reassess the foundations of your ignorance.

Global warming is killing our reef. But it’s not just the rising sea temperatures. It’s the runoff from our land-based chemicals such as fertilisers, pesticides and sediment from farming. Our poisons are killing the reef. And it’s coal. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority caved into the pressure of the mining industry and the federal government. What a legacy for future generations.

The federal government has made a World Heritage listed Natural Wonder a coal port, where they ship 60 million tonnes of coal through the Reef each year. So when she was vulnerable, they killed her.

We charge mining companies and the government, both Qld state and federal, for destroying the largest living structure on Earth. What kind of compensation do you have to pay out for that? It is murder after all. All I know is, if planet Earth were a rental we wouldn’t be getting our bond back.

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  1. Thank you Mandy for your words and your astonished grief which I and so many of us share. May they shake us up enough to save what is left of the earth’s wonders.

    Nola Firth

  2. Yes thank you – I’ve shared it on Fb – It’s a crime for us to allow this to happen. I share your grief, anger and disbelief – maybe that’s why they get away with it . . . because there’s no way in hell we could ever imagine doing something so stupid and criminal!

  3. Well said. It’s a despicable act to destroy what doesn’t belong to them. May we find the strength to stop this from happening.


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