You may have about the "death" of the Great Barrier Reef, one of the most staggeringly beautiful features of the natural world: "The Great Barrier Reef of Australia passed away in 2016 after a long illness. It was 25 million years old," wrote Rowan Jacobson for Outside magazine in October, in an "obituary" that was shared thousands of times on social media. Fact: The reef is under incredible strain, due to myriad environmental stressors, from elevated carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to warmer, more acidic ocean water. Also fact: Many environmentalists — and lovers of the reef — are working harder than ever to protect what remains and safeguard our shared legacy. 

Three of them are friends: Malia Rouillon, of Siren of the Seas; activist Alice Forrest; and Chrystal Dawn, a free surfer, writer, and yoga teacher. Here, we talked to them about what the reef means to them — and what they're doing to save it. 

Here, we speak with Chrystal about her passion for the reef. Learn more about her work here, check out her blog here, and follow her on Instagram here



What was your first impression of the reef?

Growing up in Hawaii, the idea of an outer reef larger then our Island chain, was astounding. I discovered the Great Barrier Reef first though nature programs on public television, and loved learning about the colorful marine life the reef is home to.

My favorite memory of the GBR is my first personal experience at its southern most tip with my friend Malia. She introduced me to the reef on an adventure there with her expert freediving friends. Together we spent a few days exploring the reefs off the coast of Agnes Waters and the town of 1770. I still remember the first sight of the reef, and all the life — it was like a garden in the middle of the ocean. We swam with wild manta rays, hundreds of fish in vibrant live coral, and whilst lunching on an uninhabited island, we saw a 12-foot-plus hammerhead shark in the shallows which blew me away.


Why have we allowed the reef to become so damaged?

Part of our overall human negligence of the reef, in my opinion, is due to living out of sync with nature. Many people are not aware of how our daily decisions such as plastic bag use negatively impact the reef — and this is a problem. When we become more aware of our important role as protectors and assume responsibility for our over consumption, I do believe more changes will happen. Simple things like bringing your own cup, or bottle, saying no to lids, plastic bags and carpooling have a net positive impact on the reef and can easily become healthy habits.



What's next? Is it too late to save it?

As a believer that our planet is a living organism, I personally do not believe that the reef is damaged beyond repair. I do however think that repair like any healing takes time, the right care, and protection from further damage. We have a role to play in this integral process, and I encourage anyone who reads this to omit one single use plastic from your life, and spread the word. Reducing our intake of plastics and other petrochemical based products and reusing what already exists are vital in this process.