Sean York mural
(Photo: Courtesy of Kapu Collective)

Last winter off the coast of Oahu, an artist named Sean Yoro put on a wet suit, took a long deep breath, and dove to the ocean floor over and over again.

He was creating works of art beneath the waves to raise awareness about climate change.

Yoro, who also goes by Hula, grew up surfing and diving in Hawaii, and he’s worried about how global warming is damaging coral reefs in the waters he loves.

“It’s so devastating to see how much damage, not only in Hawaii but around the world,” he says.

So Yoro worked with marine biologists to create small artificial reefs. These steel and concrete structures can help support marine life by creating places where corals and other organisms can grow.

Yoro’s artificial reefs also provided canvases on which he painted a jellyfish, a woman’s face, and an eye staring upward.

“I wanted to really symbolize the human side of the ocean and kind of how we’re all connected,” he says.

He created the paintings with eco-friendly pigments designed to dissolve quickly. But the project will live on. His underwater exploits were captured on video and shared with Yoro’s online fans, so the images – and concern for climate – will remain in people’s minds.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Jan O'Brien was assistant editor and website manager at Yale Climate Connections from 2007-2022. She brought more than three decades of experience in environmental publishing and policy research and more...