Ocean's End Travels through Endangered Seas: Travels Through Endangered Seas

Overview

The Black Sea is already dead. Because of sea-level rise, an entire nation in the South Pacific, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, is being washed away. Throughout the Caribbean Sea, vast stretches of coral reef-called the "rainforests of the ocean" because of their diversity of life-are dying at increasingly rapid rates. The reefs along the entire north coast of Jamaica are dead. Ocean's End is not about the damage our oceans could suffer (and inflict) in ten or a hundred years, if we're not careful. It's an...

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Overview

The Black Sea is already dead. Because of sea-level rise, an entire nation in the South Pacific, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, is being washed away. Throughout the Caribbean Sea, vast stretches of coral reef-called the "rainforests of the ocean" because of their diversity of life-are dying at increasingly rapid rates. The reefs along the entire north coast of Jamaica are dead. Ocean's End is not about the damage our oceans could suffer (and inflict) in ten or a hundred years, if we're not careful. It's an eyewitness account, in compelling and vivid detail, of the massive worldwide destruction that's already happened.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This is a very disturbing book--and it's meant to be. Journalist Woodard gives us a wake-up call that our oceans are in trouble and that we have to act now if we are to save them and ourselves from destruction. In a manner reminiscent of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Woodard describes his journeys to a variety of endangered areas: the possibly already-destroyed Black Sea, the bleaching coral reefs of Belize and the Caribbean, the collapsing fisheries of Newfoundland and the North Atlantic, and the shrinking ice shelves of the Antarctic Peninsula. In addition to his own observations, Woodward includes a solid background of the history, politics, and science of each area of focus. He concludes with a prescription for the global action that must occur if we are to turn the problem around, and it is just possible that it can be done. Woodard has done his part by writing the book. Our first job is to get the book (and others like it) into our libraries and then into the hands and minds of our patrons. Highly recommended for libraries at all levels, especially public libraries.--Margaret Rioux, MBL/WHOI Lib., Woods Hole, MA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Booknews
Woodard, a journalist specializing in global affairs, gives an eyewitness account of the state of the world's oceans and announces a call to action. After a year and a half spent crossing the world's seas, he tells a fascinating tale of fishermen and scientists, officials and activists, divers and sailors whose daily lives are spent confronting the ocean's problems. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Lori Valigra
The book does, in its comprehensiveness, show us the magnitude of the problem and give us the motivation to act.
The Christian Science Monitor
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465015719
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 2/28/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,283,012
  • Lexile: 1250L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Colin Woodard writes on global affairs for the Christian Science Monitor. A regular contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chronicle of Higher Education, his work has appeared in dozens of publications. He speaks Hungarian, French, and Russian and currently lives in Wiscasset, Maine, and Washington, D.C.

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Table of Contents

Foreword ix
Preface xi
1 Dead Seas 1
2 Ocean Blues 29
3 Run on the Banks 57
4 Muddied Waters 97
5 Fall of the Magic Kingdom 131
6 Paradise Lost 163
7 Message from the Ice 191
8 Sea Change 225
Appendix 251
Acknowledgments 255
Notes 257
Index 285
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Preface

This book begins in Eastern Europe, which was my home for nearly five years. I lived longest in landlocked Hungary and traveled throughout the region writing about the collapse of one system, efforts to build a more promising replacement, and the scheming few who for personal advantage harnessed--and in some cases unleased--the darkest demons of Europe's past. In academic papers and, later, newspapers and magazines, I often found myself exploring these themes through environmental issues.

This may seem an unusual approach, but in 1989 it made perfect sense. In the late 1980s, many of Eastern Europe's Communist regimes thought environmental issues were a safe, apolitical forum through which the public could be allowed to blow off some steam without threatening the existing order. They unwittingly wedged an opening that would help bring down one-party rule. The first mass protests in Hungary were organized against a hydroelectric project being built by Hungary and Czechoslovakia on the Danube River. In 1989, Bulgaria's Ecoglasnost--a group formed to protest air pollution in ruse from a Romanian chemical plant--led the protests that allowed reform Communists to overthrow Todor Zhivkov's hard-line regime. By several accounts, the 1987 Chernobyl disaster prompted Mikhail Gorbachev to move faster and farther with Glasnost than he originally intended. By disclosing the details of this and other accidents and allowing the public to respond, Moscow opened a torrent of uncensored speech and triggered large environmental protest in Latvia, Armenia, and Ukraine, some with nationalist undertones.

My first environmental reporting dealt with a river that led me, with time, to the sea. Hungarians were outraged when newly independent Slovakia completed its half of the controversial Gabcikovo-Nagymaros Hydroelectric project and used it to divert the Danube--the inter-state boundary--into Slovakia for several miles. The Danube is central to Hungary's identity, the subject of waltzes, poems, and paintings. Slovakia's ex-Communist leaders chose the Gabcikovo dam as the central symbol of their nation's reawakening. Relations between the two nations turned icy but, in the end, cooler heads prevailed.

The Danube, however, did not. The sewers of Bratislava, the Slovak capital, emptied directly into the river which, once diverted, no longer passed through the wetlands region that once cleansed it. At first I focused on the implications for Budapest's water supply, which came from the river. Later I became interested in the overall health of the river system, which was very poor. Across a wide swath of Europe, cities, fields, livestock pens, and factories dumped their wastes into the Danube, which conveyed the pollution into the Black Sea. Soon news services in Bulgaria, Romania, and the USSR carried reports of a shocking environmental catastrophe. Through a combination of long-and short-term stresses, humans had triggered the sudden, rapid destruction of life in an entire sea.

On vacation in Maine I heard the news that the Grand Banks, perhaps the world's most productive fishery, had been closed for lack of cod. The Georges Bank off New England soon followed. When I got back to Europe, violent conflicts between British and Spanish fishermen made front-page news; the root problem was that there weren't enough fish to go around. A Norwegian environmental group revealed that the USSR had dumped sixteen nuclear reactors, most with their spent fuel assemblies, in to the Kara Sea. Pacific salmon, Atlantic bluefin tuna, and North Atlantic swordfish were now scarce. A college classmate said something off-handedly about how he thought people were killing the oceans. At the time I dismissed the idea as far-fetched, maybe even hysterical, yet it stuck in my mind, gnawing quietly on the edges of my attention. But back in the Balkans I had other, more immediate things to focus on.

In early 1997, I finished a stint covering the international community's operations in postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina and decided I'd finally had my fill of Balkan fascism and the response of the West. I returned home t Maine and, between short assignments overseas, found myself researching the state of the marine environment.

At first it was only to satisfy my own curiosity. I grew up on a nd around the sea and had felt its pull while living in landlocked Budapest, Zagreb, and Sarajevo; if something systemic were happening to the northwest Atlantic or the wider ocean, I guess I wanted to know about it sooner rather than later. The more I read, the more scientists I talked to , the clearer it became that the oceans were in serious trouble.

So I did what I usually do. I packed my bags and headed off to see for myself. For a year and a half I crisscrossed the world ocean, from the foggy North Atlantic to fecund bayous, from balmy island shores in the Caribbean and equatorial Pacific to the frigid, glaciated coasts of Antarctica. I talked with fishermen and scientists, officials and activists, divers and sailors, religious missionaries and government ministers. In the end, I hid away in cabins on a research ship, the coast of Maine, and the central arteries of the nation's capital to write this book.

Ocean's End begins, as did my own journey, on the Black Sea, whose near-total destruction provides a cautionary tale of what can happen when marine environments are treated with reckless abandon. Chapter 2 provides an overview of the oceans, their central role in the story of life on Earth, and the crises they confront.

People tend to think of the crises in the oceans almost entirely in terms of fish and fisheries, and chapter 3 introduces these problems, describing the sad destruction of Grand Banks cod and, in the process, the basis of Newfoundland society. But fishing is only a small part of the picture. Chapter 4 deals with the interrelationship of land and sea and shows how the reengineering of the Mississippi River basin triggered enormous ecological disruptions not only in the Gulf of Mexico but throughout Louisiana's bayou country. For chapter 5 I traveled to Belize to investigate the decline of coral reefs and to dive with scientists on both damaged and pristine reefs.

Global change dominates chapters 6 and 7. The first covers a trip to the Republic of the Marshall Islands, one of several nations that face total destruction in the face of rising seas. The latter describes my journey to the Antarctic Peninsula, which lies on the front lines of global warming and ozone depletion.

The final chapter offers some practical, real-world strategies for remedying our dysfunctional relationship with the oceans, integrating the ideas of many people who have devoted their lives to marine resource management. The political and social challenges to adopting these measures are significant, but nowhere near as huge as the emerging crisis beneath the waves. We've proved at least two age-old adages to be incorrect: The oceans are not endless, and we can't safely assume that there will always be other fish within them.

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