The Great White Depression
2018, Middle School, Prose
I am a fish. Not just any fish. I am a Royal Gramma, which sounds like I’m really old, but I’m just a juvenile. My home is here in the tropical coral reefs, or as I say, my royal coral palace. It’s beautifully decorated with gorgonian fans and blue sponges and red firecracker corals. I fit in rather beautifully because half of me is a royal purple and the other half is a golden yellow. Until recently, there has always been plenty of food in our coral palace and lots of secret crevices and crannies to escape the big fish eaters. But then something terrible happened. And our perfect life was no longer so perfect.
The first time it appeared was a few years ago in 1998 (Royal Grammas are very good with dates). The Great White Wave rolled in, carrying water that was much too warm for us, and the corals didn’t like it one bit. They got very stressed out, especially the Finger Corals and the Cauliflower Corals.
Then something even worse happened. They and the other corals got so stressed out by the Great White Wave that they kicked out the algae that was living on them. Everyone knows that coral need algae to survive as that’s what they eat. Now, the coral had nothing to eat, which was very bad, as I am sure you can understand. In case you don’t know, corals get their colors from the algae that live on them, so when they left, it bleached all the corals’ beautiful colors, turning them bone white.
I’m not sure why the corals would push out the algae, but they probably couldn’t think clearly in that warm water. I didn’t like it either, but I was a Royal Gramma and so kept my head under water and tried not to panic. But the truth was we were all depressed because we were sad for the coral and we all needed the coral to survive. That’s why we called it the The Great White Depression.
Food was scarce for a long time, and it took us years to recover. The corals survived because they welcomed the algae back. Just when we thought we were safe and happy, it happened again. ANOTHER Great White Wave. That was in 2010, and to make matters a lot worse, there was another one – a third one – a few years later.
Our coral palace was under attack, and the enemy was the warm waters of the Great White Wave. It was hard for us fish, too, because, we eat the algae off the corals, and each time the coral let it go, we had no food either. And the crabs and lobsters and the jellyfish and eels and the turtles, too. We all suffered so much that I sometimes call these events the Great White Depression because it was very, very depressing for us poor creatures who were just trying to make a living on our coral reef.
That’s when Brain Coral told us who was behind the Great White Depression. He said the guilty ones were an air-breathing species called Humans. They have special gills to breathe the air. Most of the time they scuffle about on land or zoom over us in their noisy vessels. Brain Coral says that they are the ones that burn the smelly poisonous stuff that goes in the air and in our water, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, it’s also making the air and the water hotter. That’s why the Great White Wave keeps coming, trying to kill the coral and all of us who rely on the reef.
I wanted to ask the Humans why they were doing all these horrible things. I mean. they can’t be very smart if they are polluting their own air, right? It would be like us letting our coral palace get dirtier and dirtier and not cleaning it, until we couldn’t live in it anymore. We would never do that!
The sad news is there will probably be another Great White Wave, and each time the coral population grows smaller. Parts of the reef are now a ghost reef. It’s white and dead. Although I don’t think ghosts would like to haunt it because it’s too sad, even for them.
Brain Coral says we need to fight back. But it’s not so easy when you’re as small as most of us. I’m only three inches long, and those clumsy Homo Sapiens are big and stinky.
Suddenly, Brain Coral said, “Who’s that?”
A shadowy figure was swimming straight for us. I couldn’t believe it. It was one of those Humans. He was wearing a black suit and had special water gills that he was breathing through. My scales trembled all the way down to my tail.
The human looked at me through very strange eye windows, while pointing something straight at me. I was going to die and I wasn’t even a year old!
Then he swivelled the black object and focused it on the reef.
“I know what he’s doing,” said Brain Coral “He’s using that box to film the coral reef.”
“You mean our dead friends?”
“Yes,” said Brain Coral. “He’s sees what his species has done to the coral. He looks sad about it to me.”
“I bet he would much rather like to take pictures of the colorful corals, like how it was before,” I replied.
I felt a flicker of hope. “Maybe he can tell the other Humans to stop burning their poisons and dumping them into our home and making our water so hot that it’s cooking us to death.”
“Well, there are a lot of those Humans up there,” said Brain Coral, “so maybe he can show his pictures to a few of the Humans and then they can share them to a few more and so on. Then maybe the tide will turn, and they’ll be more careful about what they put into the air and the water.”
Then the Human turned towards me again and did something very strange. It stretched out its mouth so the corners went up. Then it waved one of its limbs. It seemed to be trying to make friends with me.
Then I did the only thing I could. I waved my fin at the human.
I thought that if I put myself into a fish’s shoes - I mean fins - then I and the reader would care more about what is happening in the ocean with coral bleaching due to climate change.