Billie Eilish has thrown her support behind conservationists fighting to save the Great Barrier Reef.
Eilish has approved the use of her breakout single ‘Ocean Eyes’ for a social media campaign by not-for-profit science program CoralWatch. Based at The University of Queensland, CoralWatch aims to arm non-scientists with information and hands-on experience about the health of coral.
Following a campaign from Elijah Richardson, an eight-year-old budding conservationist, Eilish greenlit the use of the track for a promotional video.
The primary school student has been a fervent conservationist since he was three. He has since become the face of the CoralWatch campaign, which has seen him try to recruit the support of actors Robert De Niro and Kit Harrington.
“I’m prepared to do whatever I can do to protect the environment and I think if we can get more famous people like Billie to help out, we can get the message out to a lot more people,” Richardson said.
Of Eilish’s endorsement, CoralWatch director Justin Marshall says: “we need everyone to care, not just scientists and environmental groups.
“That is why it is great we have Billie and her enormous fan base worldwide on side to help open more eyes to this beautiful, iconic, priceless ecosystem.”
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In June, the World Heritage Committee agreed not to put the Great Barrier Reef on its list of “in danger” environments, against the recommendations of United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation experts.
In recent years, the reef has been severely damaged by unprecedented marine heatwaves, triggering mass coral bleaching events in 2016, 2017, and 2020 that reduced shallow-water coral reefs by as much as 50%. These catastrophic, frequent bleaching events are symptomatic of over a hundred years of heavy fossil fuels.
A recent report from James Cook University’s Professor Terry Hughes and colleagues has challenged the hopes that the Great Barrier Reef could evade global heating long enough to recover.
The study, which looked at recent bleaching events, found only 1.7% of individual reefs had avoided bleaching. Reef experts had banked on cooler areas to act as refuges from bleaching, and enable corals to survive and disperse.
Though the new research found areas “earmarked earlier as candidate refuges” had now experienced severe or moderate bleaching at least once.
“The world is now littered with former potential coral reef refuges that have since bleached,” Terry Hughes said.
“There are still healthy reefs producing larvae, but if we see these patterns [of warming] continue you would expect it would affect rates of coral recovery. One of the biggest concerns is even if we can stick to the 1.5C target, we still have committed warming.”
The report comes on the heels of Scott Morrison’s recent appearance at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, which saw the coalition fail to set stronger climate targets for 2030.