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Pantone’s dire new hues are the colors of dying coral

The Glowing, Glowing, Gone is a brightly somber campaign calling for urgent action against climate change.

In 2016 while filming the documentary Chasing Coral, a team from The Ocean Agency filmed an extraordinary thing – and not in a good way. A coral reef in New Caledonia was “glowing” in rare vibrant colors due to an underwater heatwave.

Now, in partnership with The Ocean Agency and Adobe, Pantone Color Institute has launched some of these colors in a campaign to raise awareness of the coral reef crisis. While we usually think of Pantone colors as lovely and happy-go-lucky, the “Glowing, Glowing, Gone” shades are actually a grim thing: The colors of a dying ecosystem.

Richard Vevers, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Agency, described the encounter in a blog post:

“We’d seen more than our fair share of iconic coral graveyards — bone-white swaths of dying reef — from vast stretches of the Great Barrier Reef to locations such as Hawaii, the Maldives and Japan. But in early March 2016, when we traveled to New Caledonia, located in the Coral Sea about 800 miles east of Australia, we were shocked to see something completely different — corals ‘glowing' in vibrant color.

In a desperate attempt to survive the increasing underwater heat waves caused by the 93% of climate-change heat that is absorbed by the ocean, corals sometimes produce vibrantly colored chemicals that act as sunscreens to protect themselves from the heat. We photographed what was probably the most extreme coral fluorescence event ever recorded. It was as if the corals were screaming in color — we’d witnessed the ultimate warning that the ocean is in trouble.”

Pantone and Adobe analyzed the imagery captured during this sobering experience to identify the colors of coral fluorescence – the resulting palette mimics the glowing colors that signal these ecosystems’ last gasps.

While the colors may look lovely to the uninformed eye, they are obviously anything but … and will hopefully serve as a wake-up call. “If everyone could have seen what we witnessed during the Third Global Bleaching Event,” wrote Vevers, “there probably wouldn’t be a single person who wouldn’t rally around the survival of this ecosystem that supports a quarter of all ocean life and half a billion people for food and income.”

Sadly, no matter how brightly they may scream, the reefs are out of sight and out of mind for most of us.

To that end, the Glowing, Glowing, Gone campaign will include a design challenge inviting brands and creatives to show their support for the seas by using these new colors in creative designs, products and more.

Saving the world, one wall-painted-in-the-color-of-dying-coral at a time. To learn more, visit the Glowing, Glowing, Gone campaign page.

The Glowing, Glowing, Gone is a brightly somber campaign calling for urgent action against climate change.