Help Make Sure The Great Barrier Reef Stays Great

Of all the stunning natural beauty in the world, the Great Barrier Reef is particularly amazing — and worthy of saving. That’s why Ben & Jerry’s took up the cause of helping to keep it safe from environmental damage in early 2014. Just more than a year later, here’s what’s happening with the reef today, and how Ben & Jerry’s helped.

Just how great is the Great Barrier Reef?

Of all the world’s coral reef systems, only one has “Great” in its name. Located off the coast of Queensland, Australia, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) comprises more than 2,900 individual reefs. It stretches for upwards of 1,600 miles and astronauts can see it from space. The GBR is also home to more than 1,500 species of fish, including these little guys:

Clown fish Clown fish enjoy the natural beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. Photograph: JamesDPhotography

In January 2014, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority approved a plan to expand a coal port and dump 3m cubic meters of dredge spoil in the GBR marine park.

Dredge spoil consists of rocks, soil and shells that come up from the seabed when oceanographers deepen waterways or create shipping channels. Conservationists say dumping this waste can smother coral and expose it to high levels of toxicity.

Ben & Jerry's cow-divers Great Barrier Reef As part of the Ben & Jerry’s Fight For the Reef Tour, cow-costumed divers pose at the Great Barrier Reef. Photograph: Ben & Jerry's

In response, Ben & Jerry’s launched the Fight for the Reef Scoop Tour in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund Australia. The campaign meant giving out free Ben & Jerry’s samples, raising awareness about threats to the GBR and encouraging Australians to join the fight to save their natural treasure.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) took note of the coastal development plans and expressed its concerns. Conservationists thought about adding the GBR to list of World Heritage Sites in Danger, but that decision was postponed until February of this year.

In January, the Australian government moved to protect the GBR by banning the dumping of dredge spoil in the GBR Marine Park. UNESCO applauded the reversal and recently announced that the GBR shouldn’t be placed on an “endangered” list – at least not for now.

Ben & Jerry's free ice cream The Ben & Jerry’s crew gives out free scoops of ice cream to promote the Fight For the Reef Tour. Photograph: Ben & Jerry's

Not in the clear yet

The GBR remains on the UN’s watch list, however, and the draft ruling calls on Australia to rigorously implement its conservation commitments. The ruling is not a reprieve, UNESCO says.

Pollution is just one problem the GBR faces. Another serious threat is climate change — a considerable concern of Ben & Jerry’s, too. Rising sea temperatures can lead to coral bleaching, one of the main causes of global coral death around the world in the past 20 years. In February, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched a model to forecast threats facing the colorful reefs. Last year, severe coral bleaching hit the Marshall Islands, Guam and other South Pacific areas.

It’s not too late. In late March, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced ambitious plans to halt the decline of the reef. The Ben & Jerry’s community can also rise up and work together to save the GBR.

daisy coral Brightly colored daisy coral helps make the Great Barrier Reef one of the most beautiful places on earth. Photograph: Wibble_Roisin

How you can help save the Great Barrier Reef

Because of climate change’s threat to the reef, millions of people around the world can join together in calling for a commitment to 100% clean energy by 2050.

Related: Can Ben & Jerry's save the Great Barrier Reef?

Ben & Jerry’s, along with nonprofit AVAAZ, have started a petition that will be delivered to world leaders at the Paris Climate Summit in December 2015. Sign the petition, share it with friends and get informed about the global environmental threats to natural treasures such as the GBR. Decisionmakers can’t ignore the ongoing threats to our natural wonders if we all speak out.

Content on this page is brought to you by Ben & Jerry’s, sponsor of the Climate change: too hot to handle hub.

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