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The Ocean of Life: The Fate of Man and the Sea [Hardcover]

Callum Roberts
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)


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Book Description

May 24, 2012 9780670023547 978-0670023547

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

Review

 
“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

About the Author

Callum Roberts is the author of The Unnatural History of the Sea, a Washington Post Book of the Year and winner of the Rachel Carson Environment Book Award. Professor of marine conservation at the University of York. He has appeared in several documentaries, including "America Before Columbus" and "The End of the Line," and is a board member of Seaweb, a U.S.-based environmental group. He lives in England.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (May 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780670023547
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670023547
  • ASIN: 067002354X
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 6.7 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #490,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Callum Roberts is a marine scientist and conservationist at the University of York in England and author of The Unnatural History of the Sea. His book charts the effects of 1000 years of hunting and fishing on ocean life and won the 2008 Rachel Carson Environment Book Award of the Society of Environmental Journalists. Callum's research has revealed the extraordinary rise and fall of fisheries over the last 200 years, but also shows how life can make a remarkable comeback after protection is granted. His team at York provided the scientific case for the world's first network of high seas marine reserves in the North Atlantic that in 2010 placed nearly 300,000km2 of ocean under protection. Callum works with many environmental charities and is a WWF UK Ambassador, trustee of Seaweb, Fauna and Flora International and Blue Marine Foundation, and advisor to Save our Seas. His next book, The Ocean of Life, explores how the oceans are changing under human influence and will be published in 2012.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Calls attention to our imperiled oceans June 9, 2012
By JYK
Format:Hardcover
As a concerned person about the state of our environment, I try to learn about the problems and what we can do to solve them. If Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain's Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans focused on the destruction caused by the everyday plastic we throw away, 'The Ocean of Life' takes a more comprehensive view to the problems that are rapidly killing the oceanic ecosystem, from overfishing to plastics to pollution (e.g. oil spill). In a scientific and balanced tone, Professor Roberts does not demonize one or the other but reminds us that we are all culpable through our daily, careless actions that have damaging consequences on the marine life. Our insatiable appetite for fish that is depleting the marine stock; the noises from boats and submarines that are damaging to whales and dolphins; the plastics that flow into the oceans and killing birds, fish, and mammals alike; the Chinese appetite for shark fin soup that is rapidly killing sharks in a most agonizing manner; and, of course, the diseases that are rapidly killing the coral reefs and casting a dark shadow over the marine ecosystem. If things seem bleak, it's because they are unless we drastically change our ways and make some sacrifices. I recommend the book for anyone interested in learning more about the environmental issues pertaining to the oceans.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'There is a tide in the affairs of men...' July 25, 2012
Format:Hardcover
In this book, Callum Roberts sets out to argue the case that man is damaging the oceans of the world in ways that may be irreversible if not addressed quickly and determinedly.

Roberts starts with a history of the oceans since the planet was formed, showing how previous episodes of warming, changes in acidity levels etc. have had huge effects on the animals that live there. He then gives a very detailed account, (perhaps a little over-detailed in parts) of the history of man's interaction with the sea, through fishing, shipping and pollution amongst other things. As he piles detail on detail, his argument that we are causing major and probably irreversible damage is completely convincing and thoroughly depressing. Some of the images he provides, of mass piles of discarded plastic gathering in the ocean gyres, of dead zones caused by chemical pollution, of coral reefs bleaching and dying, of life at the bottom of the seas being destroyed by trawling, are stark and horrifying. Of course we knew all this, but Roberts pulls it all together for us and shows us the consequences, so that no-one reading this book could be left feeling that this is a problem that can continue to be ignored.

It is only in the last couple of chapters that Roberts offers solutions and not unsurprisingly these are fairly straightforward - to set up protection zones, to reduce the flow of chemicals and rubbish into the seas, to combat global warming. Straightforward but not easy, though Roberts also gives examples of some major advances that have been made over the last decade or so. (Who would have expected George Dubya to come out of a book like this as one of the heroes? Apparently he set up huge protected zones before he left office.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly Informative - Urgent Call for Action July 7, 2012
Format:Hardcover
First of all this book is long and content dense. It is not light reading. It is written in a passionate tone at times but it comes at the subject from a very factual and scientific approach. In contrast I recently read In Pursuit of Giants: One Man's Global Search for the Last of the Great Fish and while written from a conservation perspective it is much more of an adventure in story telling. Both books have their place. If you are looking for detailed information then this book is for you.

The book starts with a excellent description of how the seas evolved and then follows up with several chapters detailing the devastating impact of global warming on the worlds oceans. It includes the devastating impacts of over fishing and the the horrible destruction left behind by modern methods of fishing. There are depressing chapters on pollution and the introduction of invasive species that wipe out native stocks.

The second part of the the book (and the shorter part) is more optimistic and provides guidelines on what we can do as individuals and as groups to slow and even reverse the problems. Despite the overall negative tone of the book I found this section provides some reason for hope.

This book includes Amazon's "Search Inside" feature and there are is a lot of material available for preview. Please take advantage of that.

Overall this is an excellent resource. It's not beach reading but it is an important topic if you want to enjoy the beach in the future. The author's thesis is very well supported. Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
This was a very well written but sobering read about the current state of our oceans. So many problems; pollution, over-fishing, bad fishing practices (such as long lines and dredging), climate change, nitrogen laden "dead zones" in the oceans and bays, destruction of salt marsh and wetland habitats, soil erosion, dams, all these topics are covered in great detail and in a very interesting and enlightening way. Despite all the negatives and the fact that our oceans and waters are very much in real trouble, the author does offer solutions in the second half of the book and surprisingly is able to keep a reasonably optimistic tone. There are ways to maintain sustainable fisheries, provide energy in a way that will not contribute to our already too warm world, protect and restore marine habitats (such as coral reefs), prevent and clear our ocean's dead zones, and restore some of the diversity and abundance we so desperately need in this and really any ecosystem. There are two appendices included which offer ways to eat seafood in a manner that will protect our oceans from further damage and also a great list of conservation organizations working to protect and restore oceans and waterways. Overall this was a fascinating read and while sobering it did offer me some optimism that it is not too late to do something. We just need to start acting on an individual level because a lot of little squeaks together can make a big noise.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read
Very readable examination of the current status of the world's oceans and the impact of human activity on their health. Well-written and captivating.
Published 1 month ago by KA Welsh
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
A fascinating account. The importance of mangrove habitats, of sustainable fishing plans, of the sea as the foundation of our ecosystem is absorbing and compelling.
Published 1 month ago by Georgia Lloyd
5.0 out of 5 stars great read
Well written and very relevant in today's changing world! Highly recommended to anyone who is interested in the ocean and water resources.
Published 1 month ago by MegsStuff
5.0 out of 5 stars True Understanding
What I like best about this book is that the author seems to pull out so many details that make the ocean unique as a system and how it is different from the land-based systems we... Read more
Published 3 months ago by sls239
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written
This was used as a supplemental text in our marine pollution class to fill in topics our textbook did not cover as well.
Published 6 months ago by Lauren
5.0 out of 5 stars BRILLIANT SUMMARY OF MARINE ENVRONMENTAL DISASTER
Balanced with lots on needed cures -- cures we'll be very lucky to see An absolute must for anyone interested in the human predicament and its population-consumption basic causes. Read more
Published 7 months ago by P. Ehrlich
4.0 out of 5 stars Maganificent look at Earth's oceans
A big magnificent book which explores the deep seas and the impact of humanity on ocean life. Take time to read it and absorb its story and the many cautions it presents.
Published 7 months ago by Dr. Morbius
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
Makes you see why we need to do something right away to stop destruction of our oceans and therefore our planet
Published 11 months ago by ELAINE M. CROOKS
4.0 out of 5 stars Great on arguments, low on stories
Roberts gets ambitious for putting all sides of the ocean management challenge together in one tome. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Brian Griffith
5.0 out of 5 stars realistic view of the degradation and exploitation of the oceans
This view of environmental damage already accomplished and in progress in the oceans seems nearly complete to me. The damage is worldwide and probably irreversible. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Brian Saunders
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