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Global Ideas

Crocheting a coral reef for the climate

With the fate of the Great Barrier Reef hanging in the balance, Margaret and Christine Wertheim are crocheting to recreate the magnificent ecosystem and draw attention to climate change and ocean acidification.

Name: Margaret Wertheim
Occupation: Science writer/crafter
Project: Crochet Coral Reef project
 
The Crochet Coral Reef project is an epic creation inspired and led by twin sisters Margaret and Christine Wertheim. Raised in the Australian state of Queensland, they wanted to create a homage to the Great Barrier Reef, which is facing extreme damage as a result of global warming and ocean acidification, and find a novel way of showing the world what is at stake.

Their chosen strategy was to make a reef made of wool. What began as a living-room crochet project has become, eleven years on, a global collaboration that has recruited 8,000 handy volunteers in countries including the UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Germany and Latvia.

Collectively, they exhibit their creations, which Margaret Wertheim regards as a subtle call to action. She says using the handicraft which is often regarded as a domestic pastime for homemakers as a way to raise global concerns about ocean health makes it "the original digital technology."

On their website, the sisters describe the Crochet Reef as "a unique fusion of art, science, mathematics, handicraft and community practice that may well be the largest community art project in the world."
So far some three million people have viewed the Crochet Coral Reef, which gives them some idea of what the real thing looks like. At least, what remains of it.

Last year, scientists recorded extensive bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, which they say is the result of climate change. In 2016 alone, more than 65 percent of coral on the northern reef was killed off.

Although coral can recover over a period of some ten years, experts say that is unlikely to happen in the near future. For that, temperatures are simply too high.

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