Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 11, 2019

Saving Atlantis

Filed under: Ecology,Film — louisproyect @ 8:56 pm

Starting tomorrow, “Saving Atlantis” will be available on iTunes. This is the definitive documentary on the loss of coral reefs as a result of global warming. It relies on the testimony of marine biologists and the people whose livelihood depends on their health. Such people, many of who are indigenous, are fisherman or small proprietors in the tourist industry who will be ruined by their disappearance. Others facing ruin include those who live near the seacoast where coral reefs are a natural barrier against flooding during hurricanes, cyclones and other storms that create monstrous waves. Finally, it will be a loss to our cultural heritage since the coral reef is one of the world’s great natural wonders, just as much as the Grand Canyon or the glaciers. With the irrational use of fossil fuels posing the danger to assets belonging to all of humanity, this film helps to raise awareness and should be seen and recommended to friends and comrades.

In the film, scientists explain how coral reefs come into existence. The coral is a tiny, tentacled polyp that enjoys a symbiotic relationship with algae that settle down in its innards. The coral keeps the algae alive while it provides its host with nutrients. When a coral dies, it leaves behind a calcium carbonate skeleton that starts off at the bottom of the ocean floor and soon reaches massive proportions over the millennia. When the water rises to a certain temperature (varying from one coral species to another), the algae is expelled from the host, which itself soon dies. The lifeless coral becomes a ghostly white, a process referred to as bleaching.

The film takes us on a journey to all four corners of the world where coral reefs can still be found. We meet fishermen in Colombia, Polynesian islands and Australia as well as surfing pros in Hawaii. In addition to preventing Hawaii’s coastal villages from being flooded, they also serve to create the giant waves that draws professional and amateur surfers to its islands from all over the world.

One of the main goals of marine biologists right now is to discover why some coral are more resistant to bleaching than others. A worldwide project is underway to identify their cellular makeup, including DNA, so as to bioengineer a strain that might be able to resist the effects of global warming. While this project is commendable, one must understand that it might lead to blind alleys over decades, just as the case with cancer research. In the meantime, all efforts must be made to join Greta Thurnberg and other activists on the front lines of the struggle to eliminate fossil fuels.

I recommend both seeing this film and consulting the official website that has an excellent collections of links to activists and scientists on the front lines. I particularly recommend the page on Coral Facts  that should be read, even if you don’t get around to seeing the film. Among them is this:

Coral reefs hold secrets to human health

Many drugs come from natural products, and we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what medicines that impact human health can be found in these habitats. According to one recent study, “the prospect of finding a new drug in the sea, especially among coral reef species, may be 300 to 400 times more likely than isolating one from a terrestrial ecosystem.” Coral reef products have been used for the treatment of everything from cancer to cardiovascular disease.

If this isn’t reason enough to preserve them, then we have lost the ability to understand the need for self-preservation. Given a choice between SUV’s and air conditioning on one side and a cure for cancer on the other, most people would choose the latter.


  1. “Given a choice between SUV’s and air conditioning on one side and a cure for cancer on the other, most people would choose the latter.”

    Given the evidence record, I’d say that’s wrong, where we’re talking about the “civilized”. There’s a whole NGO climate-industry set up to cater to their self-image while giving them license to keep burning the Earth. The Greta Show and XR comprise the latest incarnation.

    Comment by Russell Bangs — November 12, 2019 @ 10:23 am

  2. Louis: Please excuse this totally off-subject note. I returned from Mexico City 10 days ago. There I picked out a postcard I’d like to send to you. Please let me know by email your NYC mailing address. Bill in Fredericksburg, VA.

    Comment by Bill Boyd — November 12, 2019 @ 12:25 pm

  3. I notice here that there’s some hope for “breeding” resistant coral strains. Back in the day, AFAIK, figures like Louis Bromfield pioneered agricultural techniques that met some of the environmental challenges of the day–e.g. contour plowing, which I believe helped prevent another Dust Bowl (note–need to check some sources here, but just saying).

    I don’t want to breed false optimism so to speak, but what is the scope for similar technical measures at present? And then–what is the political feasibility of implementing them? Is e.g. the idea of using industrial hemp in place of forests (e.g. while they are growing) for carbon sequestration merely a (you should excuse it) a pipe dream?

    One feels certain that The Entrepreneur will NOT leap in to save the day ….

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — November 12, 2019 @ 8:15 pm

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