How does someone turn around the scope and speed of coral-reef deaths across the world due to rising ocean temperatures? In Chasing Coral, Jeff Orlowski, the film’s director (Chasing Ice, 2012), and Richard Vevers, an advertising executive turned underwater photographer, propose that coral reefs have a fundamental branding issue. Since fewer than 1 percent of people scuba dive, most people simply don’t see that coral reefs are undergoing mass bleaching at unprecedented rates, becoming white skeletons of their former selves.
Most of us think of coral reefs as plants, but they are actually animals with indefinite life spans. Corals are tiny polyps that feed on algae and form a limestone home—a reef—so as to live in colonies. However, when water temperatures rise, the algae produce toxins, which cause corals to expel that algae in self-defense.