Coral and Kilmer

21So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the waters teem . . . And God saw that it was good. 22God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas . . .’”
— Genesis 1

The Chasing Coral film screening and discussion was held 25 May 2019 at the Galaxy Theater in Gig Harbor. Chasing Coral is a 2017 documentary by divers, scientists and photographers who time-lapse recorded the ocean-warming-caused destruction of coral reefs that’s occurring around the world. The film won awards from the Sundance Film Festival, the International Wildlife Film Festival, and more.

Thanks to Representative Derek Kilmer (Representative Kilmer was present to introduce the film) and the Washington Conservation Voters for making available to us this documentary about the ocean’s dying coral. Knowing that coral and its ecosystems are dying globally because of warming oceans is depressing, and would make one feel hopeless, except for the message at the end of the film. That message says that transformation of thought and actions is occurring in millions of people, and that many are now fighting the climate crisis—as exemplified by the many nations, states, cities, and companies that have committed to clean energy. Part of that transformation is driven because we—through films such as this—now know what’s occurring in our oceans.

Washington State leads in that transformation of thought and actions: Our legislators and citizens have boldly decided to move to a 100% clean energy economy; our governor has boldly declared that climate change action needs to be a large part of American action, leadership, and the job market; and finally, but importantly, old technologies like coal, fracked natural gas, and petroleum are being called out for the damage they’ve done and are doing to our oceans and our future. In such boldness, courage, and transformation lies our hope for the future.

The following are my scribbled notes about the film, done in the darkness of the theater while writing on my knee:

 We’ve lost 50% of the world’s coral in the last fifty years. Off the coast of Florida, we’ve lost 80-90% of the coral. The Great Barrier Reef of Australia is huge—it’s as long as the entire eastern seaboard of the United States. In 2016, twenty-nine percent of the Great Barrier Reef died. There have been three major bleachings of the world’s coral: 1997-1998, then again ten years later, then again five years later.

The bleachings occurred because of ocean warming. The ocean has warmed 2 degrees. Ninety-three percent of earth’s excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed by the oceans, and coral reefs are the casualty. Coral reefs are nurseries for many fish. When the coral dies, many fish disappear from the reefs. Reefs protect many coastlines from storms.

The documentary showed time lapse photography of the coral die off that has occurred around the world, a massive event which has also been noted by divers from around the world. The die off (which is bluntly visible in the time-lapse photography) progresses from bleached coral to dead coral to frayed- and breaking-apart coral. Most of earth’s coral will be dead in thirty years. The coral reef ecosystem will disappear in our lifetime. One person in the film sardonically posed this question: Do we need forests, trees, and reefs?

We have this hope, though: people are awakening (and this film is one part of that awakening) to the damage that’s occurred and to the catastrophe that will occur in our oceans and on our lands if we don’t change course now. Many nations, states, cities, and companies have taken pledges to move to clean energy and are initiating actions to do so.

To arrange a showing of the film in your community, please go to

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