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Ocean's End: Travels Through Endangered Seas Paperback – February 19, 2001
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"Part travelogue and part ecology lesson...an informed, balanced and constructive account." -- Foreign Affairs, November, 2000 / December, 2000
"Recognizes not only our excesses...but also our opportunity and ability to change course before it is too late." -- Dallas Morning News, July 7, 2000
"With his frank observations, Woodard destroys ignorance and awakens the advocate in all of us..." -- Skin Diver, August 2000
"Woodard is a tremendous reporter...and he is a strong, impassioned writer as well." -- Bill McKibben, Boston Sunday Globe, July 9, 2000
"Woodard's quietly passionate and focused presentation leaves little doubt about the gravity of the water world's ecological crisis." -- Kirkus Reviews
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I've long felt that we're slowly destroying our oceans and seas; I didn't realize we had actually accomplished it somewhere already. I strongly believe that nature is resilient and that it rights itself by restoring balance after we wreak havoc...but we also need to be taking some action and this book really brought that home for me. Ocean's End follows Woodward from the Black Sea forward on a global journey that touches on Newfoundland, the Mississippi Delta, Belize and the Great Barrier Reef, the Federated States of Micronesia, and finally to Antarctica.
In a compelling journey the documents the once pristine conditions, teeming with in all of these areas with their intensely interesting and varied ecosystems and the native peoples who lived (and still are trying to live) there, to the decline/destruction of these ecosystems and the empty bag they fisherman and villages in these places are left holding. He also takes care to point out that the decline of each ecosystem affects others and the world wide "chain" of them are all interconnected. Additionally, he points out that it's not a localized problem, many of the causes of an ecosystems decline happen far from the location where the ultimate damage is done (the Mississippi Delta for example).
Woodard really weaves it all together into a nice package that lays out the depth of the problem and he does give tentative solutions...if anything can successfully be done to "fix" this problem, it won't come easy or cheap and we definitely need to get away from the short-sighted profit driven solutions that have been developed in the past. I'd recommend this in a heart beat, if you don't think this is a serious problem, you should definitely read this book!
The style is both readable and rigorous. Woodard takes great pains to make clear what is known and what is not, and while clearly reaching "green" conclusions, he is careful to examine different perspectives. Woodard is a master storyteller. The people he comes across in his travels come to life as each chapter unwinds another environmental and economic tragedy in progress.
This is a very human book. Woodard doesn't wallow in the "fish-kissers" moral approach to environmentalism (what did that shrimp do to you?). Nor does he delve too deeply into the minutia of the science affecting a particular ecosystem (Do mollusks have brains?) Instead, he makes a compelling case for how the ongoing degradation affects both the local people who rely on a part of the oceans directly and human life as a whole.
I highly recommend this book to all concerned world citizens. We are past worrying about what is the "right" thing to do with respect to the oceans. We need to be concerned about what can be done to prevent a major disruption in the world's economic, climate, and food supply systems.
Why? Because I want my graduate students to first see how wonderful the world's oceans and coastal zones are and secondly, how incredibly stupid and short sighted we can be as we mismanage our responsibilities as stewards of these ecosystems. Colin Woodward has done a wonderful job of narrating a gripping, exciting, and enfuriating story from the killing of the Black Sea to the plundering of the Newfoundland Grand Banks and all of the other case studies in between.
This is a book worth reading and also one that is compellingly interesting and enjoyable. Take it on your next trip or read it and then take my web-based graduate class in International Coastal Management. You'll be ahead of yourself!
My only complaint is the summary. Woodard draws the reader's passions out, but doesn't suggest explicit ways to get involved in the issues. I ended up writing letters to my congressional representatives.
Read this book, and start your own letter campaign.