The Ocean of Life: The Fate of Man and the Sea

The Ocean of Life: The Fate of Man and the Sea

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by Callum Roberts
     
 

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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

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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. Agent: Patrick Walsh, Conville & Walsh. (May)
From the Publisher
"I need to now jump up and down myself to say that Ocean of Life is an excellent and engrossing work. Mr. Roberts has corralled an astonishing collection of scientific discovery, and he conveys it with non-textbook readability. . . . He didn't set out just to explain what is going on in the oceans. His even more important goal is to consider what the decline in marine life tells us about the future of humankind. . . . I hope a great many people-particularly those in that undecided middle-read this book. There can, after all, be no hope of change without an enhanced appreciation for the potential consequences of our impact on the natural world."-G. Bruce Knecht, Wall Street Journal


"A story told with both scientific accuracy and narrative skill. . . . I know of no other volume that treats such divergent ocean issues as overfishing, decreasing pH, plastic pollution and biogeographic shifts with this much accuracy and acumen. As a balance to the bad news, each chapter is edged with fascinating details about the life of the sea. . . . Ocean of Life, in detailing sobering facts about the ills that afflict the largest biosphere on earth, is a call to action. At the heart of this book is a deep love of the ocean and a profound concern for its viability as a resource for us all."Stephen Palumbi, Nature


"Passionate marine conservationist Roberts documents the disturbing changes that threaten the future of marine life and proposes a natural course of conservation that may yet save us from economic crash, environmental ruin, and human suffering."Rick Roche, Booklist


"An engrossing survey of the relationship between man and the sea for readers living through the greatest environmental changes in 65 million years. . . . Roberts's meditation will have readers gasping aloud with wonder, even as the sobering truth of humans' profound interdependence with the sea provokes concern."-Publishers Weekly (starred review)


"A timely wake-up call . . . Roberts maintains his optimism while looking at the problems that have been compounded by global warming, pollution, the destruction of marshlands, etc., and he notes that remedial action is still possible."-Kirkus Reviews


"Biologist and conservation activist Roberts examines with clarity the relationships among fossil-fuel use, climate change, rising sea levels and ocean acidity, overfishing, and pollution from toxic chemicals, sewage, and fertilizers. . . . Although he paints a bleak picture of the oceans' health, Roberts offers solutions for preventing further degradation of our oceans. . . . This is essential reading for anyone concerned about the future of the planet."Library Journal


"Callum Roberts has done it again. From showing us the past with the wisdom of a Dickens character in his earlier book, he now leads us toward the future in The Ocean of Life. It's a book so fine, I wish I'd written it!
Carl Safina, author of Song for the Blue Ocean and The View From Lazy Point


"Roberts imparts his vast knowledge with a consummate talent for colorful narrative and devastating facts.-His book will be required reading for anyone who cares about the oceans-not least because, as well as underlining the scale of the problems, he offers us the hope of real solutions."-Philip Hoare, author of The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea


"Those of us who worry about the future of our oceans could do a lot worse than take up this single refrain, ‘Listen to Callum Roberts!' Shouted in the ears of the world's leaders, it might just make a difference. Meanwhile we should all read The Ocean of Life, a thrilling narrative of oceanic natural history and a vital call to action."-Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, chef and author of The River Cottage Cookbook

Kirkus Reviews
Roberts (Marine Conservation/Univ. of York; The Unnatural History of the Sea, 2009) warns that "the oceans have changed more in [the] last thirty years than in all of human history before." In this follow-up to his award-winning account of man's 1,000-year exploitation of maritime resources, the author not only documents the loss of large sea animals, such as whales, sharks and turtles, the destruction of coral reefs and the broader ocean environment, but he anticipates further devastation from the onset of deep-sea mining in the near future. While environmentalists are keenly aware of the danger man poses to animal species, Roberts suggests that the oceans have always played a significant role in human survival. He writes that the view of our ancestors as a "plucky species" of big-game hunters has a "certain mythological ring to it." However, our early survival may have depended mainly on water creatures for sustenance: "Could our shift to bipedalism have been an aquatic adaptation developed by wading to gather shellfish?" While the author notes that the 1880s shift to steam power and then later to diesel "heralded the beginning of the modern era in commercial fishing," these were still just improvements on more traditional fishing methods. Not so the introduction of echo sounders and other electronic devices augmented by computers and satellites, which now allow fishermen to detect the presence of fish with an extremely high degree of precision. Roberts maintains his optimism while looking at the problems that have been compounded by global warming, pollution, the destruction of marshlands, etc., and he notes that remedial action is still possible. It is not too late, he writes, for "strategies that rebuild nature's vitality and fecundity"--e.g., protecting one-third of the ocean from direct exploitation and restricting fishing of tuna, salmon and cod. A timely wake-up call.
The Washington Post
No account of the cataclysm is more engaging than Roberts's The Ocean of Life. Although it contains very little that is new…the book is powerful in its completeness…I love talking to scientists—they're among the world's most interesting people—but often I'm not certain what language they're speaking. The rare treasure is the scientist who can bring clarity and wit to the debates. Roberts is such a scientist, and The Ocean of Life is immensely entertaining, although it chronicles a tragedy.
—Mark Kurlansky

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670023547
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/24/2012
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.32(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“Those of us who worry about the future of our oceans could do a lot worse than take up this single refrain, ‘Listen to Callum Roberts!’ Shouted in the ears of the world’s leaders, it might just make a difference. Meanwhile we should all read The Ocean of Life, a thrilling narrative of oceanic natural history and a vital call to action.” —Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, chef and author of The River Cottage Cookbook

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