Chasing Coral and Changing the Climate with Richard Vevers
“For the first time ever, supporting climate and conservation action is being seen as an opportunity.”
It is not everyday that you get the opportunity to go deep sea diving and uncover the ecosystems lurking at the bottom of the ocean. Thanks to Richard Vevers and his team at The Ocean Agency, we have access to experiences like this every day through transformative and creative visual projects that educate audiences about the endangerment of ocean climates. From inventing an underwater camera to helping capture over a million photographs of coral reefs in an underwater survey, Vevers has dedicated his career to technological activism. His visual projects have grown into campaigns and studies that have raised millions of dollars for research and conservation.
You can enter Richard Vevers’s world in his 2017 Netflix documentary, Chasing Coral, and read below to find out how you can help coral reefs with BWB.
What did you discover while making the documentary that really shocked you?
We were racing around the world with custom-built underwater cameras capturing and revealing the devastation caused by the Third Global Coral Bleaching Event. In most locations, we saw the iconic coral graveyards — bone-white swaths of dying reef — throughout the Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii, the Maldives and American Samoa. In early March 2016, we traveled to New Caledonia, located in the Coral Sea about 800 miles from the coast of Australia. Here, I was shocked to see something completely different — corals glowing in color.
During this rare phenomenon, it’s as if the corals are screaming in color — the ultimate warning that the ocean is in trouble.
In a desperate attempt to survive underwater heat waves caused by climate change, corals sometimes produce vibrantly colored chemicals that act as sunscreen to protect themselves from the heat. During this rare phenomenon, it’s as if the corals are screaming in color — the ultimate warning that the ocean is in trouble.
Watching the documentary is an emotional experience for many viewers, and some of your own cast-mates encountered a lot of difficult emotions during filming. How do you feel about the experience looking back on it – and what were your feelings during this long and arduous project?
Brits are generally not very good at showing our emotions, especially when being filmed! However, looking back on the project, it was certainly a deeply emotional experience. We were witnessing the worst ever die-off of one of the most important ecosystems on the planet. It was also inspirational. We were working with the best coral reef scientists in the world and it inspired me to change directions and start working on solutions, rather than just revealing the crisis.
What was your greatest hope with the documentary?
My greatest hope was that people would stop to take notice of the coral reef crisis and support the climate conservation action necessary to save these ecosystems. We wanted to reach not just the usual conservation crowd, but a mainstream audience that can impact action at a government level.
Have you noticed any improvement in the protection of coral reefs since this release?
We have definitely seen an increase in support for coral reef conservation from governments and philanthropists since the release. For example, our 50 Reefs Initiative, developed during the filming of Chasing Coral, resulted in an $86 million commitment from Bloomberg Philanthropy to fund targeted conservation action in locations that are less vulnerable to climate change that we identified.
How do you keep your courage and your motivation amidst our current political climate and our planet’s climate?
For the last decade, I have watched issues such as pollution, overfishing and climate change get out of control and take an ever-increasing toll on ocean life, despite our best efforts to raise awareness. The lack of political support for action has compounded this issue.
For the first time ever, supporting climate and conservation action is being seen as an opportunity.
Fortunately, the tide appears to be turning. Millennials and younger generations are demanding that brands support environmental causes and abandoning brands that don’t. For the first time ever, supporting climate and conservation action is being seen as an opportunity. I believe we are about to witness a new era in ocean conservation. This is what keeps me motivated.
What can viewers do beyond just watching the film? How can we act?
People often believe they can’t make a difference as individuals when it comes to climate and conservation action. But, this is definitely not true. It is always individuals who make the difference. Making your vote count, eating less meat, taking public transportation, planting trees– all of these things help. What counts the most is inspiring others, especially large groups and businesses, to get involved in a positive way.
What are your upcoming projects and where can we find your newest work?
We’re currently starting up the second phase of our Glowing campaign, which utilizes the colors of coral fluorescing that we saw during the filming of Chasing Coral. The aim is to reveal the support for action and get influencers and brands involved, especially around key decision-making events in 2020. The Ocean Agency will also be working on several additional exciting conservation projects, rolling out in the second half of the year, but we can’t reveal too much at this point. Follow along with us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Images courtesy of The Ocean Agency.
Teresa Deely is a junior at Columbia University majoring in English and Creative Writing. As President of the Columbia University Glee Club, she loves to sing, make music, and celebrate multiple modes of artistic expression. She believes that one’s skin is yet another canvas and vehicle for art, and has loved styling her hair and applying makeup from a young age. While she has spent most of her time in educating youth and leading enrichment programs for children, she is highly motivated in discovering new ways to care for herself and sharing them with others.