The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

07 April 2008

Crochet a coral reef to save the world

The Great Barrier Reef is recognised as one of the great wonders of the natural world. Sadly, everything from over-fishing to climate change is threatening the survival of this rich ecosystem.

Coral Reefs and Global Warming
All over the world coral reefs are dying out. Marine pollutants, agricultural run-off and, above all, global warming, are taking a toll on these fragile marvels of nature.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living organism. Almost one third of its 133,000 square miles has already suffered coral die-off.

Many corals are so tightly dependent on local conditions that they cannot survive if average sea temperature rises by more than a single degree, a figure we are now approaching in some parts of the world.

Politicians may be able to deny global warming (although the new Australian government now accepts the importance of this issue), corals, sadly, don’t have that option. They just die.

Since the nineteenth century the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) has warmed an average of 0.4 degrees, but scientists at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) say this already enough to cause serious damage.

These corals are now living near the upper limit of their temperature tolerance, so any sustained rise is likely to push them over the edge.

In 1998, 2002 and again in 2006 water temperature in the region rose 1-2 degrees above the seasonal average and the Great Barrier Reef experienced large scale-bleaching events. By the end of the 21st century, projections suggest that the Great Barrier Reef could be 1-3 degrees warmer. Bleaching will have become an annual event. Coral devastation will be on a wide scale. Tourists will come (if they do still come) not to see the coral reef in its wonderful splendour; but to see how global warming has trashed the environment.

But you can help!
The Institute for Figuring in Los Angeles is working on a massive project to crochet a coral reef using hyperbolic crochet. They want as many people from across the world to get involved in crocheting pieces for this. The finished product will generate a huge amount of publicity and create a lot of publicity around the impact of global warming.

Hyperbolic crochet is a form of crochet based on hyperbolic planes. When the pieces are stitched together, they do not lie flat, but creates a frilly circular pattern. The finished product looks a lot like a coral reef!

If you’re a crochet virgin check out Lion Brand’s crochet tutorial which will tell you all you need to know.

Learn to crochet (free) at:
Learn more about the crochet coral reef at:
Look at pictures of some of the finished sections at:

About the Institute for Figuring
This is how they describe themselves: Through the simple drawing of a circle in sand we open the door to a realm where figures disport themselves in play. Dividing this circle by a cross we begin to invoke the relations inherent in its form. From such beginnings emerges the game of mathematics.

If mathematics is a language of pattern its structures may be seen as the verses of a formal, yet fantastical poetics. Across the globe people have delighted in the harmonies of this language and the patterns discovered therein. These are the songs that figures sing amongst themselves.

 Mathematical forms are but one kind of figure. There are many others. Long before the development of algebra, Indian culture anticipated fractals in paisley patterns while Islamic mosaicists explored the symmetries inherent in a plane with their unparalleled command of tiling. Throughout history humans have developed a vast variety of methods for investigating and constructing different types of figures - what we might term figurative technologies - from weaving, knotting and “string figuring,” to origami, tiling, perspectival drawing, and holography.

Nature too inclines towards a figurative poetics, materializing throughout its domain exquisite formal structures - from Fibonacci numbers found in the pattern of a pineapple’s scales, to the miniature geodesic spheres of carbon “buckyball” molecules, and the logarithmic spirals in a galaxy’s rotating arms. Likewise, culture abounds with structured forms. In myths and mandalas we find relations described by projective geometry, which some philosophers also ascribe to structures of the human mind.

By classifying such figures and recognizing their diverse manifestations hitherto unsuspected correspondences are revealed.

The Institute For Figuring is an educational organization dedicated to enhancing the public understanding of figures and figuring techniques. From the physics of snowflakes and the hyperbolic geometry of sea slugs, to the mathematics of paper folding and graphical models of the human mind, the Institute takes as its purview a complex ecology of figuring.

Find out about the Institute for Figuring at:


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