It’s not enough for humans to screw up our planet. Apparently, we’ve screwed up Earth in the Pokemon universe as well.
A new character appears in the recently released video game Pokemon Sword and Shield called Cursola, a ghost version of the once vibrant Corsola. The new Pokemon is the product of runaway climate change and the coral bleaching that came with it.
Look, I’m gonna be real. I don’t know much about Pokemon. I know there’s something called a Charmander and I watched Detective Pikachu on a plane, something for which my wife roundly mocked me (I still haven’t forgiven you, Cynthia). And dril had a running bit on Twitter about Digimon, which I thought was a type of Pokemon until recently.
But outside of that, I’m really not gonna be able to give you much ‘mon knowledge (do people call them ‘mons? Because they should). For that, I suggest you visit our friends at Kotaku.
What I can tell you is that Cursola’s backstory more or less aligns with what the climate crisis is doing on coral on Earth. According to the Pokedex, Cursola came about after “sudden climate change wiped out this ancient kind of Corsola” (that is, Cursola’s forebearer). Cursola is, as mentioned, a ghost Pokemon, and it looks the part with pallid branches extending from its center.
It wouldn’t look out of place in one of the many dead reefs found back here on Earth. Rising ocean temperatures are upending the delicate balance that has kept coral alive and flourishing for millennia. Under stable ocean conditions, coral and algae coexist in a lively symbiotic bond. But if temperature heat up, they can cause coral to eject algae and die as a result.
The climate crisis has caused that to happen with increasing regularity. From 2014 to 2017, a global coral bleaching event roiled the oceans. Reefs are still reeling from that today, with signs that even massive ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef are struggling to bounce back. There are signs oceans around the world are heating up again this year, which could spell more bad news for coral.
In addition to heat waves, coral can also be thrashed by more intense storms. Last year’s Pacific Hurricane Walaka wiped one of Hawaii’s most spectacular reefs off the map. Even our poop is creating problems for coral.
Keep in mind the world has only warmed about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since humans began our global fossil fuel-driven experiment a century and a half ago. That’s already putting massive stress on corals around the world. Scientists project that if the planet warms more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), most coral reefs are likely to vanish.
So even if Pokemon isn’t the real world, the alarm it’s sounding is certainly one we should be listening to.