Book Review: The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s Are One

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By my estimation, seventy-five-year-old author Dr. Sylvia Earle has spent more than 1% of her life underwater. If her dives were connected in time, it would be as if she slipped into the ocean on New Year’s Day and did not re-emerge until some time after Labor Day.

Her book chronicles her experiences as a 1960s pioneer in underwater exploration, with stirring accounts of the inquisitive fish and mammals she met in the deep blue. Anthropomorphizing these animals would be an insult, given all the trouble humans have caused by overfishing, pollution, and acidification of the oceans. With these issues, she deftly takes an animal’s perspective in deconstructing our troubled oceans.

I once found an enterprising hermit crab with its vulnerable posterior neatly tucked into a discarded Bayer aspirin bottle, a modern, lightweight, durable substitute for a traditional snail shell. A decorator crab on a nearby reef had artfully placed a disposable fast-food ketchup envelope on its back along with bits of algae, hydroids and normal camouflaging elements. The ketchup container actually helped the crab blend in with other trash.

Over half of all humans live near the coast where impacts are felt from habitat destruction to overfishing. One report in the journal Nature found industrial fishing has removed 90% of all large fish from the ocean. As oceanic currents sweep away human litter, a convergence of garbage is amassing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. To make a small dent in the trash issue, Earle tells of the Ocean Conservancy’s yearly coastal clean-up that in 2008 drew participants from 100 countries, collecting 6.8 million tons of trash with the top 10 offenders being: 1) cigarette butts; 2) plastic bags; 3) food containers; 4) caps and lids; 5) plastic bottles; 6) paper bags; 7) straws and stirrers;  8) cups, plates, eating utensils; 9) glass bottles; and 10) beverage cans. So many of these items are food related, which is a sign to me that our food system is in disrepair. Read More >