The boat is rocking back and forth in the ever-present Florida sunshine. It is
December 6, 2014 and I am out in the Caribbean Sea off Key West, Florida; leading
my first ever Blissology Eco-Karma retreat. We're here to help a passionate team
led by sea-hand Ken Nedimeyer on a coral restoration project. Our goal: to
transplant coral from nurseries where it is being grown to the coral reefs, where so
many corals have died.
A strong breeze coming from the north has meant that more than a few bellies are
churning from the motion of the ocean. The first lot of divers is emerging. First come
the telltale bubbles from the scuba tanks, then up come the heads of the divers. They
remove their masks and gulp in their first breath of non-compressed air in the past
hour. They have been 32 feet down in the coral nurseries and have emerged with a
few crates of Staghorn Coral, ready to be transplanted on the neighboring "Pickle
Not many know about the state of the ocean even though we all know we are
intimately dependent on it. Even fewer know about the demise of coral and the
implications this has for the delicate ecosystems of the ocean and on the land.
Around the world coral are disappearing at alarming rates.
The founder of the Coral Restoration Foundation, Ken, grew up around the ocean in
Florida and has a deep passion for it. He showed us slides of the same reef from
1970, the 80's and 90's, along with current slides. It's shocking to see the changes. Coral is a
fascinating organism that is part animal, part algae, part fungi. It is living and
What the recent photos show is the skeletal remains of once living coral. They just
look like rocks. Around the world, estimates are that one fifth of the coral have died in
the Florida Key. A staggering 90 per cent that have disappeared.
Ken has targeted the Elkhorn and Staghorn coral and pioneered fascinating
techniques for growing them in nurseries about thirty feet below the ocean surface.
He grows the coral on what can be best described as a large PVC Christmas tree
stand. He and his teams transplant the coral from the nurseries into the reefs, where
they can colonize and renew themselves. Today that team is us. The Bliss Army, a
crew of about 20 yogis, divers and snorkelers who have come to Key Largo to do
yoga in the morning. We roll our sleeves up and plant coral all afternoon. There is a
name for such efforts, it's called "voluntourism." On my birthday, I just wanted to do
something to take care of the ocean I love so much and the Coral Restoration
Foundation's work like a perfect fit for us.
I never knew exactly how I would feel when this project came to fruition but when I
saw the coral come up from the nurseries, I picked up on Ken's ability to see
opportunity. How many cafes had I sat in and talked to my friends about
environmental destruction that "they" were doing. My heart felt lighter, life didn't
feel so hopeless anymore, humans weren't a horrible heartless species but hugely
resourceful and cooperative when given a chance.
I never realized the weight of we live with until it was lifted. Sometimes the
massiveness of our current environmental problems seems so overwhelming. We
think to ourselves: "Where do I even start?" At lunch Ken tells me, "Most people only know what it is like to make a living, but very few know the joy of really making a difference."
The next day we sat on the dock at the tropical eco-tourist dream resort called Casa
Morada. The beauty of the ocean surrounded us. We did what I try to do every day, stare out quietly into the open ocean horizon. It reminds us that we are not full
of problems and endless mental chatter but at our essence we are this infinite
horizon; spacious and free. Like coral itself, we could feel the power of being
working as a team. That when we work together as a community for a cause, not
much can give your life more purpose. We are one: fueled by the mystery and
beauty, ignited from the deep blue.
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