News from the front desk, Issue 518: Is there anything more loved, more poignantly symbolic of our deteriorating climate than the fading Great Barrier Reef? The Great Barrier Grief, said one headline on Thursday. A cheap play on words, maybe, but who can look at the bleaching coral and not feel grief?

 As we head into Easter, perhaps the loveliest of our yearly short breaks because it’s a touch longer, it’s worth taking some of that extra time to ponder the news that greeted us on Thursday. The Great Barrier Reef is “all but doomed” the papers said.


Because, “The Australian Academy of Science says the more ambitious target of the Paris Climate Agreement of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees has now slipped out of reach and is ‘virtually impossible’.”

It was perhaps no co-incidence then that the early part of Melbourne Design Week that started last week focused on our disappearing tropical wonderland and an achingly poignant solution to this tragedy – a kind of coral ark to preserve at least some of the incredible species of living creatures that have delighted millions over the years.

The panel session last Friday, which was moderated by The Fifth Estate, discussed a unique building that would preserve 800 species of coral in special tanks. The facility is slated to be in Port Douglas where most tourists embark on their visit to the reef. It will need to be

 highly resilient to be a good ark – to climate change of course and to direct climate threats including the cyclones that will no doubt increase in frequency in that part of the world.

And most sadly, it will have to be very secure to protect against biological contaminations, namely from us. So the closest we will be able to get to these vibrant creatures will be from a viewing platform. No more lingering at close quarters breathing through tubes or holding our breath in wonder.

The structure design is of course impressive. Architects are Contreras Earl, building services by Arup and because the building will need to be as sustainable as possible, there will be very low carbon steel and low carbon cement from Werber Sobeck in Germany – using recycled aggregate for the concrete and very low emissions cement created from renewably sourced energy. Same with the recycled steel. And, of course, it will have to be imported because they can do that in Europe but not here. (Hello Australia on steel… and we know Wagners does a good low carbon emissions concrete, but still at the small scale).

The cost of this massive structure will be about $70 million and the whole thing has been dreamed up by passionate scientists including biobank director and marine biologist, Dr Dean Miller who appeared on the panel.

It’s an incredibly worthy project and it’s already raised about $5 million – with more philanthropic funds hopefully forthcoming.

The depressing side of this facility of course is that we need it at all. It’s a lesson in humility to see the images of the tanks so far removed from the viewing platforms, to prevent we humans from getting too close.

After what we’ve done to this magical organism on our planet, it’s no surprise.

Wishing you a good and thoughtful Easter.

Let’s return to our desks or jobs anywhere with some kind of humility that might break through the enormous barriers, most political and therefore ego-driven, that have prevented action so far.

You never know, some brilliant people and well-funded entrepreneurs and venture capitalists might find a way to beat the climate clock.

Oh wait… they have… more trees, less meat, more energy efficiency, better quality existing buildings (retrofitted) less travel, more electric cars (not taxed) more honest adherence to our weak building codes and commitment to make them stronger, listening to the lessons of Covid, fast tracking our transition to a green grid, being kinder to each other so we listen and work more collaboratively (strength in numbers) and so on..

Yep, we have all answers in abundance.

Happy Easter all. See you back on Tuesday with passion re birthed.

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