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.

Reef Ballet


5 responses »

  1. thewordverve says:

    Thanks for taking the time to write about this, Rick. Very interesting, had no idea this might happen. Hopefully, it will not come to pass, this potential reef disaster.

    • rickintampa1 says:

      Jan, I originally heard about it when CNN International interviewed my friend, Thom Demas, from the Tennessee Aquarium. Then Roxanne Simon sent me a post about it. This is real stuff, and everyone’s so worried about other, more immediate and personal things, that the information about this potential environmental disaster is slipping by most of us….

  2. Thank you Rick, it is great to know people all around the world are thinking about and talking about what is happening in Australia and that it is not going unnoticed. I think it is fair to say most Australians are mortified and outraged about what the current government is doing here. He is not exactly dumping on top of the reef but yes certainly within the world heritage listed area. The likeness to a poo flinging monkey though humorous is sadly too close to the truth. No country should be ruled by someone who is apparently so bent on destroying it. And Rick you are right, the entire world is effected by environment destruction that occurs in any ocean in some way or another. Here are some links to Australian pages, through them you can find links to global petitions and also find out how Australia really feels about this government and what is going on behind the scenes ). (over 10k Facebook Community Page) (Over 100k in 48hrs – Facebook Event page) ( A New Blog created by the organiser of the above 2 pages) (Over 5k – Facebook Community Page – with a focus on government and their corporate backers) (Over 196k – Facebook Community Page) (Over 50k – Non Profit Organisation Facebook Page – Australian marine conservation – lots of info about the reef) (Over 6k – facebook Community Page)

    Of course there are many many more but I think this is enough to start with!

    • rickintampa1 says:

      Thank you, Roxanne, for sharing the web sites. I made an edit to clarify that the silt is being dumped in the World Heritage area, and not directly onto the reefs. My thought was that the water currents will take it all there anyway. I hope the way it’s worded now is more accurate. Thank you for that information.

  3. What comes to mind is, “Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. They paved paradise to put up a parking lot” (Counting Crows) except unless your head is in the ground, you do know what you’re doing. Sad.

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