Years ago I participated in an art show held at a zoo in Tampa Bay, Florida. My wife and I set up the display at the assigned spot, just in front of a huge, open-air monkey habitat. This was not a cage, but a walled-in area full of trees, ropes, swings, and a plethora of man-made climbing devices made out of logs and branches. I’m no expert on monkeys, but they seemed to be relatively happy.
So it was a great surprise to me when a couple of them started collecting monkey poop from the ground and tree branches, and began throwing it at me and my oil paintings. Was it something I said? Did they not like my art? Most of my paintings back then were of underwater scenes, usually coral reefs. They were beautiful, colorful renditions of aquatic life from all over the world, and now their beauty and purpose was about to be compromised by the steaming, brown globs of monkey poo being thrown at them in rapid succession.
Indeed, when all the available fecal matter had been hurled, the monkeys involved in their little fiasco merely manufactured more, sometimes digging deep inside to scoop it out with their hairy, little fingers. These monkeys played ‘scoop-n-toss’ until they got tired of making me run around yelling and screaming, while trying to protect my paintings with crossed arms and wild eyes. By this time, of course, most of my underwater scenes were covered in thick, fetid, brown goo.
And that brings me to my latest monkey – Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister of Australia.
Mr. Abbott plans to allow the dumping of three million cubic meters of dredge spoil from coal mines, inside the World Heritage area, which contains the world’s largest coral reef system. Even dumping near any coral reef is a bad idea, because the water column moves the silt around (in this case, 70% sand and 30% clay) long before it reaches the ocean floor. Once dumped, there is no possible way to know where all the sediment will end up.
Tony Abbott’s motives are clearly more financial than environmental. The Great Barrier Reef is already bordered and affected by mega ports, dredging, dumping, and a 7,000 ship superhighway. Abbott, who once said that climate change is “crap,” is clearly exploiting the fragile reef environment for financial gain.
This issue is not just about contributing to the destruction of the living beauty of the world’s biggest single structure made up of living organisms. It is about the long-term health of our planet. Coral reefs are habitats for countless species of underwater plants and animals. And when coral build their skeletons, they are actually taking carbon-dioxide out of the water, reducing ocean acidification. All of the oceans are connected, so what happens in Australia eventually affects everywhere and everyone else.
Coral reefs around the world are already in a tenuous state. Damaging any coral reef, even a little, is not just unacceptable; it’s patently insane. It would appear as if Tony Abbott, upon looking around at all the industries currently polluting The Great Barrier Reef, wasn’t quite satisfied with all the crap being flung at one of the most beautiful and ecologically important areas on the planet. So he dug in a little deeper until he found a new way to mess things up – the coal industry. The coal miners just keep digging and digging and digging…
And so does Monkey Boy.