Yes, crocheting really is that important. In case you don’t quite understand why, I’ll start at the beginning.
Two women in LA, Margaret Wertheim and her twin sister, were concerned about climate change. If left to continue along its current trajectory, the world’s climate will heat up (even more than it has for the past decades). This climate change promises to bring a number of disasters upon the human race and our planet. One of the potential disasters that climate change could cause is the loss of many of the world’s coral reefs.
The total area of the world’s coral reefs comprises less than .25% of the ocean, yet one fourth of all marine life (about 2 million species) live in, on, and around reefs. Even slight changes in ocean temperature can kill reefs.
It is estimated that many of the world’s reefs will be destroyed or significantly damaged in the next 20 years. General estimates approximate that 10% of the coral reefs around the world are already dead.
When coral reefs die, the species that live on them are threatened. Loss of biodiversity at this scale is not only tragic, but could have significant impacts on humans. The sisters found this particular disaster very troubling.
This is where the story gets less tragic and a lot more inspiring. The twins started crocheting corals. They used a crocheting technique invented by mathematicians in 1997 to model hyperbolic shapes called hyperbolic crocheting. It has nothing to do with gross exaggeration. This ended up being a perfect technique for producing coral reproductions.
They crocheted a lot of corals, then they did something to change the world. They shared their corals with art museums. They got a community in Chicago to crochet with them. Then the crafting became a movement and groups all over the world started to crochet corals.
Margaret Wertheim talks about the project at a TED talk, “The beautiful math of coral (and crochet)”. She explains the project beautifully.
In Saint Petersburg, Florida, a city of about 250,000 people which is deeply connected to the ocean, 300 people crocheted corals. The pieces were collected in a gallery and on the opening day 600 visitors came to see the reefs that were constructed from their handiwork.
The project in Saint Petersburg was a melding of math and art and science and community. Workshops were held all over the city for people to come learn about crocheting, corals, and the problems affecting coral reefs. All ages and genders contributed their corals. Some created the fish, invertebrates, and other creatures that depend on coral reefs.
The gallery featured a bleached coral, showing what a reef decimated by hot ocean waters looks like.
Other threats to corals besides climate change were also addressed. The Deepwater Horizon spill killed corals in the Gulf of Mexico and inspired a blackened reef at the exhibit.
Reefs are also threatened by water pollution, careless collection of coral specimens, clouding of water by construction or mining projects, and even introduction of an invasive species, like the lion fish in Florida, to an area.