Ocean of Life Paperback – 25 Apr 2013
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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 Ocean of Life, a thrilling narrative of oceanic natural history and a vital call to action (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)
Authoritative and furious ... a grand survey ... impossible to ignore ... Ocean of Life is the sort of book that inspires you to get in touch with your MP. It is elegantly written, at times overwhelming and depressing, but generally urgent and persuasive. Informed citizens of our watery planet should read it (Brian Schofield Sunday Times)
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 ... A story told with both scientific accuracy and narrative skill ... Roberts's clear, well-written accounts give us access to vast amounts of scientific information ... each chapter is edged with fascinating details about the life of the sea (Stephen R Palumbi Nature)
The urgency of Callum Roberts' message - that we have very little time to save the oceanic environment on which our existence depends - is in no way undermined by the entertaining and brilliantly-written nature of his writing. This is simply a fascinating book, taking in everything from the elemental formations of the oceans to the denizens that inhabit them; from minute plankton to the great whales - and everything that threatens them, and us. Roberts imparts his vast knowledge with a consummate talent for colourful 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 'Leviathan or, The Whale')
Ocean of Life is an excellent and engrossing work. Mr. Roberts, a British professor of marine conservation, has corralled an astonishing collection of scientific discovery ... I hope a great many people-particularly those in that undecided middle-read this book (G. Bruce Knecht Wall Street 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' -)
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 (Starred review Publisher's Weekly)
An impressive history of the oceans ... one of this book's strengths is the many solutions Roberts outlines to reverse the dismal state of the seas (Pilita Clark Financial Times)
There is a dearth of good and comprehensive books on a subject that can seem too complicated and depressing for any single tome. Callum Roberts has now provided one ... there is no quibbling with the evidence of marine horrors that Mr Roberts presents (The Economist)
It's probably a bit too soon to start talking about candidates for books of the year. But Callum Roberts' latest offering should already be considered a strong contender. Roberts is that precious pearl: a practising scientist who not only knows his field inside out, but also understands how to write compelling, persuasive non-fiction (Leo Hickman Guardian)
About the Author
Callum Roberts is professor of marine conservation at the University of York. For the last 10 years he has campaigned for stronger protection for the sea at national and international levels, including advising the United Nations, European Commission and the European Parliament. He was on the WWF-US National Council for six years and currently serves as a Council Member of Fauna and Flora International, a Board Member of Seaweb and a WWF-UK Ambassador. Callum's first book The Unnatural History of the Sea won the Rachel Carson Environment Book Prize, and was named by The Washington Post as one of the Best 10 Books of the Year.
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Top Customer Reviews
I don't want to put anyone off reading this book because I have said it is depressing, it is one of those catch 22 situations - we need to read it to understand what is happening, but in doing so the lovely state of ignorance many people bask in will be shattered. There is much we can do to save the seas as you will learn whilst reading the book - a really nice touch I thought was the author listing charitable organisations who work in marine preservation to encourage others to join them.
I hope a lot of people will read this book - we need to take action before it is too late. I would love this to be in my children's school library and covered in Geography lessons!
It is very indepth, very detailed, there are no childish illustrations and the text is well written, well placed out and to be honest, really fascinating.
I sat down and read this and learnt so much about the ocean that i didnt realise existed. I also found certain chapters quite intriguing and me and my partner sat down and had some very interesting debates about some of the pieces written.
I think that this would make a brilliant present for any young person that is interested in science at school or is undertaking a science degree at college or university.
I found it thoroughly engaging.
Roberts starts by reminding us of "shifting baseline syndrome" - the fact each generation can be unaware it is witnessing an impoverished environment vis-a-vis the past. Roberts cites e.g., how the fish landed at Key West reduced in size during the 1950's-1980's, and how the catch landed from the North Sea has plummeted since 1890 in spite of huge technological advances.
Some of the analysis is complicated, but, briefly Roberts talks of the 5 horsemen of the on-going apocalypse i.e., climate change, pollution, overkill (by fishing), invasive species, and habitat loss. For example, climate change brings temperature changes at a speed species may have difficulty adjusting to ... and increased CO2 levels that acidify the ocean. Pollution results inter alia in enormous plankton blooms, huge areas of floating debris trapped in oceanic gyres, and e.g., plastics entering the food chain. Fishing is on a scale, using methods, which have devastated and continue to devastate fish stocks and the submarine web of life. I was stunned by the atrocious statistics the author gives of collateral damage from long line fishing for mahi-mahi (near Costa Rica); to capture 211 mahi-mahi cost the lives of 468 olive ridley turtles, 408 pelagic stingrays, 413 silky sharks, 47 devil rays, 24 thresher sharks, 22 blue marlin, 34 striped marlin, etc.,.
Callum Roberts says that though things will get worse for some years he is optimistic e.g.Read more ›
Roberts manages to convey the crisis of the oceans that is almost on us with sparkling clarity. He doesn't over complicate the subject, but writes with an urgency and a passion.
The chapters are quite gloomy when you consider how bad the seas are. He covers the amount of rubbish, in particular plastics that are in the sea, the steady acidification due to the water absorbing carbon dioxide relentlessly. He covers the scandalous trade in sharks fin, and the devastation that bottom trawling and by catch is having. Grim, very grim.
But in all the bad news, there is some hope. More nations are starting to set aside marine reserves, and he details how even a small reserve can have a massive change to a far wider area.
A must read for those interested in the state of the largest wilderness on the planet.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent read for anyone who would like to know more about the variety of threats facing the world's oceans, and marine ecosystems. Read morePublished 15 days ago by Kieran Shaw Flach
This is a clearly written and very readable account of the extent to which the world's oceans have been thoughtlessly abused by mankind. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Neil Wallace
Such a good book, loads of information on ocean history and ecosystem, with a very real and scary review of human influence on the sea. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Molly Ojari
This is one of the best books I have ever read. It is insightful, easy to read (even if you don't speak marine biologist) and really makes you think about the everyday... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Magdalena C
Not quite halfway through the book. I think it,s intended to be sobering/depressing and it succeeds.Published 22 months ago by John Abel
For me this is as important a read as "6 degrees" by Mark Lynas which has really helped me understand more about our world. Read morePublished on 16 Feb. 2014 by Martin Vickers
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