Waking up and staring out of my hotel window in Cairns perfectly demonstrates the beauty of this continent. Cairns is on the northern coast of Australia and is a tropical paradise much like the southern tip of Florida. Cairns is where boats depart for diving and snorkeling trips on the Great Barrier Reef, which is what we did on our first day here. Being under the water in one of the natural wonders of the world is just about indescribable. You can feel free to picture Finding Nemo (we did, in fact, find Nemo and Marlin hiding in their anemone they’re doing great and send their best) but that doesn’t capture the natural ocean treasures and beauty that surrounds you. The colors are more vibrant on the coral, the fish, the rays and sea turtles than anything depicted in that movie. It truly is a once in a lifetime experience and no one could ever regret making the journey up here.
However, that beauty should be preserved for everyone to share, enjoy and experience. One of the types of white collar crime we learned about, which few of us even knew of or considered to be white collar crime, was eco-crime; in other words, illegal deforestation, pollution, and the bribery and crime lord behind these all too common and lucrative businesses. While on the reef, divers touched coral, purposefully or inadvertently (it’s pretty hard to avoid the stuff when it’s your first dive and the ocean swells/currents toss you gently about), and you could see all the dead patches from where others had before. It’s no secret that pollution from the countries surrounding the reef are destroying vast tracks of it. I found myself wondering if I was contributing to this destruction, or if the companies that take tourists out there are committing crimes such as those we learned about. Whether the companies are or not, it is certainly a crime against nature and our own human heritage to take advantage of such an awe inspiring location without properly protecting it, not only so others can continue to see it in the future, but so we don’t lose an important ecosystem teeming with life.