Take a pristine coral reef off the mangrove-forested coast of Belize, one that draws a handsome roster of fish and other sea creatures--and, therefore, a complement of scuba divers, sports fishermen, photographers, and other consumers of nature. Add an airstrip to serve these cash customers, then a hotel, then a seawall, then a golf course, then a desalination plant. In no time, thanks to the changes you've wrought on the coastal ecology, you'll have a dead reef in a dead patch of sea.
Such wanton destruction is the norm for today, writes science journalist Colin Woodard, who debarks from his travels on the world's seas with depressing and unremittingly bad news. One of the victims is the Black Sea of Eurasia, once a thriving extension of the Atlantic, now all but destroyed by "overfishing, oil spills, industrial discharges, nutrient pollution, wetlands destruction," and other ills. The ravaged Black Sea is mirrored in other places to which Woodard travels: the South Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, the Antarctic. In such places significant ecological transformations are occurring, all in a very short period of time, all perhaps irreversible, all certainly dangerous to the health of the biosphere. "The oceans," Woodard urges his readers to consider, "are finite and destructible. Wastes dumped and drained into the ocean do not disappear; they are neither economic nor ecological externalities. Likewise, marine fish and animals are not commodities like iron, wheat, or broilers; they are wildlife." Adding to works such as Carl Safina's Song for the Blue Ocean, Woodard makes a clear and urgent call for the reversal of all this destruction and for the protection of the world's waters. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
Drawing on his travels across six continents and 100,000 miles, Woodard skillfully supports his argument that pollution, harmful fishing practices, ignorance and global warming are destroying the world's oceans. A global affairs writer for the Christian Science Monitor, he swam through algae and human sewage in the Dead Sea, dived among both pristine and bleached coral reefs in the Caribbean waters around Belize and braved the glaciated coasts of Antarctica to see the melting polar ice sheets. With vivid, detailed descriptions, he successfully brings to life the fascinating mysteries of marine science. Most engaging and poignant are Woodard's myriad interviews with people living alongside troubled oceans. From Newfoundland fishermen, out-of-work since the Grand Banks' massive cod stocks were exhausted, to beleaguered residents of the Pacific Ocean's Marshall Islands, who battle fast-encroaching waters and continued contamination from American nuclear weapons testing, he uncovers a colorful cast of scientists, officials, activists, divers and religious missionaries who attest to the human and economic costs of ecological decline. Woodard also outlines strategies that, he contends, must be taken to save our seas. Although his approach is somewhat one-sided, it is a sobering call to action for those interested in the plight of the world's oceans. (Apr.)
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