March for climate action Airlie joins global push
EILEEN Davis spends the majority of her time underwater and can see firsthand the effect climate change is having on the reef.
It's for this reason she joined more than 100 other Whitsunday residents at Saturday's community march in Airlie Beach - one of many that occurred throughout Australia and the world ahead of this week's United Nations Climate Conference in Paris.
Ms Davis, a dive instructor and environment manager for True Blue Sailing, said she felt privileged to spend so much time at sea.
"I am passionate about the underwater world (but) I am just one of 69,000 people employed in the tourism sector servicing the Great Barrier Reef," she said.
Whitsunday Residents Against Dumping spokesperson Sandra Williams said it wasn't just the reef or tourism sector that was suffering from climate change, with the community, broader region and indeed all of humanity affected as well.
"As the temperatures rise, the ocean warms up and acidification gets worse," she said.
"Most coral species won't survive, which means the entire delicate ecosystem of the reef that offers homes and habitats to wildlife is at risk.
"We know that burning coal and fossil fuels causes climate change. Our summers are hotter and drier and cyclones are more destructive.
"For our government to leave for this climate summit with targets of 26-27% isn't good enough. Research has shown that only a reduction of 45% or more will have the effect we need now."
Guest speaker and cane farmer Simon Mattson said climate change was also posing a risk to the agriculture industry, which relied on the replenishing rains of wet seasons absent in recent years as Queensland continued to battle drought.
He also said farmers needed more support to implement environmentally conscious practices.
"Agriculture gets a bad rap as one of the biggest contributors to climate change, however we can also be a part of the solution," he said.
"(But) the only way a farmer can change his ways is if he has the finances to do so, which is why I would encourage all of you to shop locally and support Australian farmers."
Speaking on behalf of the local Ngaro people, Jasmine Phillips said there was doubtless more to be done to protect the reef "as she provides sustenance for all saltwater people along the coast of Queensland".
"We all hold grave concern for our ways of life, should her demise continue," Ms Phillips said.
But it wasn't all a picture of doom, with Ms Williams pointing to the positives of Saturday's march.
"We were really pleased (that) hundreds came in the extreme heat to show their support and rally for action against climate change," she said.
"I think the numbers reflect the public shift that has occurred. More and more people are realising that action is needed now to save our Great Barrier Reef."