Riddikulus Reef-dementors

Written by:
11 August 2022
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Originally Appeared In

The death of the Great Barrier has been greatly exaggerated

Harry Potter fans know what a Dementor is. To quote Remus Lupin it is a creature that:

glories in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them… get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you.

I am reminded of Dementors when I hear the usual scaremongers claim the reef is still doomed despite the wonderful news last week that the Great Barrier Reef recorded the highest amount of coral since records began in 1986. The reef has never had more coral despite supposedly having suffered four devastating, unprecedented bleaching events since 2016 – all due to climate change. Corals take five to ten years to recover so it is clear that reef-science institutions have been misleading the world about the bleaching events. How could there have been up to 93 per cent coral loss in 2016 alone, and much more in 2017, 2020 and 2022 if we now have record high coral cover?

We should look at the predictions of the reef-Dementors in 2012 when it had relatively low coral cover after a couple of huge cyclones passed across the reef. The waves from the cyclones killed corals in an area bigger than Belgium and Holland – not huge by Australian standards, but still a fair bit of coral. Eminent Dementors stated:

coral cover in the central and southern regions of the GBR is likely to decline to 5–10% by 2022. The future of the GBR therefore depends on decisive action.

This has been proven to be a ridiculous prediction. It’s not just a bit wrong – it’s as wrong as it possibly could be. The reef’s coral cover in 2022 is roughly four times higher than predicted, and now at record levels. The only decisive action taken was by the coral – it grew back, like it always does.

But the reef Dementors can still find ways to scare children even with this great news. Apparently, the species composition of the reef is changing. It is becoming dominated by plate and staghorn corals that are the most susceptible to bleaching and cyclones. So, all this growth has made the reef very susceptible to future damage from climate change. It is doubtless at a ‘tipping point’ – only one major event away from oblivion. I already feel hope draining from my soul. Here was I thinking more coral was a good thing.

Let us ignore the fact that these delicate staghorn and plate/tabular corals are the most spectacular of the reef and provide safe harbour for the iridescent fish that give the reef its colour – and we have more of them than ever. Ignore even that this type of coral is the first to be damaged by cyclones – the biggest cause of temporary coral loss – and the first to recover, by definition changing the species mix on a reef.

Better to remember the Patronus Charm – the spell to counter a Dementor – which is to recall what the Dementors said after the ‘devastating’ 2016 climate bleaching event:

Fast-growing staghorn and tabular corals suffered a catastrophic die-off, transforming the three dimensionality and ecological functioning… (of the reef and)… changing (the reef) forever, as the intensity of global warming continues to escalate.

So, in 2016 the loss of staghorn coral was a disaster but in 2022 its regrowth is a disaster. And the change that was supposed to last ‘forever’ lasted until 2022. There is only one word for this. Ridiculous.

To deal with Dementors, Harry Potter practiced his magic on another creature called a Boggart. Boggarts have no definite physical form but appear as the thing you most fear – for Harry, this was a Dementor. To destroy a Boggart, you must make it appear laughable. The magic spell, with correct spelling, is Riddikulus. Thanks J.K.!

Reef scaremongers are not fearsome Dementors, they are common-or-garden Boggarts and it is time to laugh at them. They are nothing to fear as their credibility has been destroyed by the wonderful condition of the reef. They have been crying wolf since the 1960s when they said the reef was doomed from crown-of-thorns starfish plagues. Their desperate attempts to find bad news in the latest fabulous statistics make them look even more pathetic. Boggart sycophants in mainstream media who practise the dark arts of deceiving the public, withholding vital information, and scaring children must also be ridiculed.

Be in no doubt that Boggarts fear derision. In 2018, I was fired from James Cook University after breaking the rules of the Ministry of Magic by casting a Riddikulus spell which demonstrated major quality assurance problems in reef-science. It showed that a reef that was supposed to have no coral was flourishing, and a warming climate is almost certainly good for reefs because corals grow faster in warmer water. One of the many things the university Boggarts formally charged me with was ‘satire’ for making fun of them.

The biggest hurdle stopping people accepting the latest statistics showing the reef is fine, is the corollary of the proposition. If the reef is fine, the scientific institutions have deceived us for decades. To most people this is worse than the thought that the reef is doomed. We have been told since childhood that scientists must always be believed. The idea that some are untrustworthy is too horrible to contemplate. For most people, their Boggart is that the institutions they trusted are corrupt. I understand that but we must help them laugh.

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