Chasing Coral: A terrifying glimpse at the future of our oceans.

Chasing coral is a Netflix documentary that follows the story of a team of divers who attempt to take time lapse and 3D images of reefs as they bleach and die through the cumulative effects of climate change. They eventually produce a number of dramatic before and after shots which demonstrate the rapid rate at which the reefs die. The documentary uses science to powerfully expose the ecological destruction that is occurring under the profit system.

Collaborating with the team behind the 2012 documentary Chasing Ice, using time lapse cameras to reveal the melting polar caps, It shows the extraordinary ‘story behind the story’ in their highs and lows in the trial and error involved in fabricating the housing for pioneering time lapse camera able to withstand tough ocean conditions that they would later use.

They travel to a number of international locations before spending the greater part of the documentary on the crown jewel; the Great Barrier Reef, capturing a shock bleaching event in the 2016 heatwave when approximately 29% of corals were lost.

The team eventually present their findings at a symposium for corals in Hawaii in dramatic fashion, the grim images of the future are hard to stomach. In the postscript to the film the key figures dedicate their lives to activism and charity works aimed at saving coral species from extinction.

It is very inspiring to see the international team they have assembled in discussion work together, a team of divers, cinematographers and scientists all experts in their fields. They are all extremely knowledgable and do a terrific job in making the complex phenomena of climate change and coral bleaching easily understood by all.

In one scene they visit the Australian Institute of Marine Science and view their collection of core samples taken from various corals, in observing a section of coral on which the growth rings document a wealth of information, the era of coral bleaching beginning in the 1980s is evident. Marine scientist Dr Justin Marshall states in narrating that scene that

“By tracking back in time, by looking at the history of the reef, we are absolutely certain that what we are seeing now is not a natural fluctuation, the cause is unequivocally global climate change change caused by emitting carbon into the atmosphere.”

The increasing pollution of our atmosphere and the greenhouse gas effect that is driving climate change is the key cause of mass coral bleaching events. Instead of the far reaching and immediate action required to save the Great Barrier Reef and all the other marvels of the worlds oceans, the proposals put forward by the ruling class border on the ridiculous, they are currently trialing geo-engineering to save small pockets of reef, from trying to use fans and pumps to draw cool water from depth and save pockets of reef from heat stress, to Genetically modified coral, and the abstract idea cloud brightening. Without broader efforts to curb emissions and combat coral bleaching more generally, they are utterly ineffective.

In contrast, only a socialist response offers a path forward for saving the natural wonders such as the reef and stabilizing the climate for the benefit of humanity. As Bryan Dyne from the WSWS states :

“To seriously address climate change requires a major reorganization of economic life on a global scale. The framework of energy production has to be transitioned from one that uses fossil fuels to one that relies on renewable energy. This, in turn, requires an international effort, involving a massive influx of funding for infrastructure, the development of current technologies and the investigation of new ideas, rather than the squandering of trillions of dollars on war and the self-enrichment of the world’s billionaires.” (1)

Global reef systems are in peril, entire species of corals could disappear from existence within our lifetime. Chasing Coral is a powerful political exposure which aims to enlighten on the true state of our oceans, as such it deserves a wider audience. I recommend it.


1 – Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris agreement: The socialist solution to climate change by Bryan Dyne


Owen Hsieh is an independent Marxist living between Western Australia and Taiwan. An avid bibliophile and book collector with a special interest in Eastern European literature and history, currently focused on the Russian Revolution and Stalinism.

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