An ancient and stunning natural wonder is dying. It should be a wake-up call to all of us.

Australia's Great Barrier Reef, in some form, has existed for up to a half a million years.

Known today as the largest structure on Earth made up of living organisms, the incredible beauty stretches over 1,000 miles across the Coral Sea.

Its more modern form has been in place for 6,000 years or more, meaning it has already outlived the Renaissance, multiple world wars, and the golden age of boy bands.


But it could be nearing the end.

Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images.

When you think of the coral in the Great Barrier Reef, you probably think of something that looks like this — vibrant colors surrounded by sea life.

Photo by William West/AFP/Getty Images.

Lately, it's been looking more and more like this.

Photo by Bette Willis/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

It is really, really NOT supposed to look like this.

Photo by Bette Willis/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

This whitening process is called coral bleaching, and it's what happens when the coral expels algae and plants that live inside of its tissue.

Photo by Greg Torda/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

Those plants help feed the coral and keep it alive; they also give it its brilliant color.

Photo by Bette Willis/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

Step one of bleaching: The coral turns bright white. Step two: It dies.

Photo by Bette Willis/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

Bleaching can happen for a lot of reasons, usually from warming water temperatures and pollutants.

2016 was officially one of the warmest years on record, and 2017 is well on its way toward taking the title. So, yeah ... not good.

Photo by Kerryn Bell/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

And while coral has shown that it sometimes can recover quite well from bleaching incidents, scientists fear the reef may not be able to bounce back from recent trauma.

This chart shows the severe spread of bleaching in just one year's time. Image by ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

Water quality expert Jon Brodie told The Guardian the reef has reached a "terminal stage" after several years of warming waters and poor water quality, with up to two-thirds of the reef's total structure hanging on for dear life.

Plenty of organizations are still fighting to preserve as much of the reef as possible, but the harsh truth is that it may be too late.

If this is really the end for the Great Barrier Reef, it won't just be the loss of something beautiful.

Photo by Ed Roberts/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

Massive coral structures like Australia's reef support a wide variety of sea life, which, if lost, could have a devastating ripple effect on the aquatic ecosystem and even the fishing industry.

Though many experts say it's too late to stop further destruction of the reef, and in fact, some have predicted for years it was doomed all along, it's not too late to learn from our failings in protecting it.

We need to invest in better water quality for our oceans, and we need to pour everything we've got into slowing global warming. If a massive living structure that has weathered thousands of years of abuse can't survive it, the reef's death should at least be the wake-up call we need to finally take action.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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via Jules Lipoff / Twitter

Weronika Jachimowicz, 17, is getting a lot of attention for subverting people's expectations of who excels in high school. And that's exactly what she wants.

Jachimowicz was named New York's Mattituck-Cutchogue Union Free School District's 2021 salutatorian. Her yearbook photo next to valedictorian Luke Altman is going viral because of her dramatic Goth makeup and attire.

It all started when assistant professor and writer Dr. Jules Lipoff tweeted out a photo of the valedictorian and salutatorian he saw in a newspaper and it went viral. How many salutatorians have you seen that wear pentagram hoop earrings, a choker, and black devil horns?

The juxtaposition of her next to the bowtie-wearing Altman, makes the photo even more amusing.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less