By Emersyn Lyon, Concordia International School Shanghai, Age 16
We live on a planet filled with crystal blue oceans, white sand beaches, and shallow coral reefs teeming with life. However, this reality will steadily fade into a memory as we perpetuate our careless habits. Mother Nature's beauty will become nothing but pixels on a screen while the kiss of death knocks on her front door. As a fifth-year returnee on Concordia International School Shanghai's Marine Ecology Program, I have witnessed the harrowing decay of coral reefs in Thailand. At sixteen years old, I've seen a single reef transform from one of spectacular corals and spritely fish to a depressingly damaged reef. Snorkelers thrash on the surface oblivious to the havoc they inflict under the waves whilst standing on the coral. Speedboats haphazardly plunge their anchors without regard for the life beneath. Furthermore, pollution and global warming continue to tear reefs apart.
While humans have a great capacity to destroy, we also have the ability to heal. Therefore, Concordia seeks to educate youth and adults globally through our Marine Ecology Program collecting data and documenting changes. Concordia hands over the torch of knowledge to us, the young; the torch that bears the sorrows of our world. Concordia's program is the only one of its kind that conducts Reef Check in the exact same location for the duration of five years. This year marks the ninth year of Concordia's participation in this program. This is the fourth year on Concordia's second reef, which is off the east coast of Koh Phi Phi, Thailand. Our home away from home—the Manta Queen III—is filled to the brim with 23 students and 6 chaperones. The entire group did a total of 598 dives before Reef Check data collection began. Students collect data, analyze, and gain real world experience to a degree where it matters. Reef Check data is gathered over a span of 2 days with a total of 16 collection runs. Students were divided into four teams of six, and each team did two runs of data collection per day. These dives were so intensive that a single dive could take up to one hundred minutes!
With the Concordia Marine Ecology Program, students open their eyes and strive to create a better world. In fact, the data we collect is used in global conferences regarding reef health. Concordia offers the opportunity of a lifetime to step away from the screens we all hide behind and look to the world with hope for a better future. Our oceans are what we make of them; let's make the seven seas blue again.