A Silent Spring for oceans, written by "the Rachel Carson of the fish world" (The New York Times)
Who can forget the sense of wonder with which they discovered the creatures of the deep? In this vibrant hymn to the sea, Callum Roberts—one of the world’s foremost conservation biologists—leads readers on a fascinating tour of mankind’s relationship to the sea, from the earliest traces of water on earth to the oceans as we know them today. In the process, Roberts looks at how the taming of the oceans has shaped human civilization and affected marine life.
We have always been fish eaters, from the dawn of civilization, but in the last twenty years we have transformed the oceans beyond recognition. Putting our exploitation of the seas into historical context, Roberts offers a devastating account of the impact of modern fishing techniques, pollution, and climate change, and reveals what it would take to steer the right course while there is still time. Like Four Fish and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, The Ocean of Life takes a long view to tell a story in which each one of us has a role to play.
University of York marine conservationist Roberts (The Unnatural History of the Sea) offers an engrossing survey of the relationship between man and the sea for readers living through the greatest environmental changes in 65 million years. From the genesis of life four billion years ago to the increasingly empty dead zones of our planet's waters, Roberts details the interaction between the ocean and human evolution, food supply, cities, art, science, policy, business, and waste. He skillfully intersperses jaw-dropping anecdotes (one two-pint bottle of ocean water contains four billion unique viruses, albatross feed their chicks an average of 70 pieces of plastic per meal) with the concrete effects of man's influence on the ocean's acid levels, species diversity, noise, and food chain. Later prescriptions on how to interact ethically with an ocean at risk walk the fine line between individual accountability and informed policy creation. Roberts's meditation will have readers gasping aloud with wonder, even as the sobering truth of humans' profound interdependence with the sea provokes concern.