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The Ocean of Life: The Fate of Man and the Sea 1st Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0670023547
ISBN-10: 9780670023547
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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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 1st edition (May 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780670023547
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670023547
  • ASIN: 067002354X
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #329,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An exhaustive look at the pressures that human civilization are placing on the oceans. An important read. Covers many different topics.

With that said, I found the tone of the writing to be quite apocalyptic (one could debate whether that is appropriate or not based on the circumstances) and the author seems to reject most proposed solutions without really putting too much forward as alternatives. As such, I found the book a little difficult to get through, and a bit depressing (again, that presentation may be justified given the circumstances).

If you are looking for a lighter read on the same subject with proposed solutions, take a look at Sylvia Earle's "The World Is Blue." Although I'd recommend reading both books in tandem.
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