You’ll never look at a tuna roll the same way after reading Sylvia Earle’s The World Is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s Are One.
This book gave me a fresh perspective of how Earth’s oceans make life on this planet possible for humans and every other living thing.
“Water—the blue—is the key to life.” —Sylvia Earle
Last March in honor of National Women’s History Month I read several books by and about women environmentalists. I enjoyed it so much I decided to make it an annual tradition. Reading a book by Sylvia Earle had been on my wish list so when I saw The World is Blue I snapped it up.
The World is Blue engages the reader’s attention from cover to cover. It is filled with delightful sea creatures juxtaposed against a backdrop of ocean dead zones, dwindling fish populations, and widespread pollution. Examples of human ignorance and greed are accompanied by stories of good deeds and hope.
The book is divided into three main sections:
- I. The Vision: Limitless Ocean Bounty, Infinite Resiliency
- II. The Reality: The Ocean is in Trouble: Therefore; So are We
- III. Now is the Time: Opportunities for Action
Earle gives readers a glimpse into the watery home of ocean mammals, fish, shellfish, plants, and tiny organisms. We learn what makes each one unique, like people, and how they fit in the overall ocean ecosystem.
We observe ocean animals in their natural habits and the challenges they face just to stay alive long enough to become adults. It’s a fish eat fish world. And that’s before humans enter the fray with giant fishing nets, bottom dredges, miles of hooked fishing lines, oil spills, and garbage.
Readers are exposed to misconceptions about oceans, some widely held. For instance, although people usually associate trees with producing oxygen, it’s actually photosynthetic ocean organisms that provide the greater portion of our oxygen. Media coverage of deforestation informs people of how living trees help keep carbon out of the atmosphere, yet living ocean plants and animals receive little recognition of their role in performing the same function.
Perhaps the vastness of the oceans can lead people to believe oceans are impervious to what we take out and put into them. But that’s not true. Earle shows us how biodiversity loss, overfishing, and pollution harm the oceans we depend on for life
We tag along with Earle on a trip to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. A humorous yet sad description of a decorator crab she encountered on the trip illustrates the undeniable fact we humans are indeed trashing the oceans.
“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 the other trash.”
After readers get to know the denizens of the oceans and the problems we humans are creating, Earle discusses some possible solutions. She reviews the pros and cons of ocean farming and attempts to answer the question, “Is sustainable fishing possible?” She explains the need for more ocean exploration as well as the importance of national and international policies to protect the oceans.
“Earth’s life-support system—the ocean—is failing.” —Sylvia Earle
We are called to action.
The Bottom Line
Sylvia Earle is an oceanographer, explorer, author, businesswoman, and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. She has written numerous publications, received countless awards, and been called Her Deepness by the New Yorker and New York Times.
Earle’s love of oceans and ocean creatures is evident on every page of The World is Blue. Her writing style is easy to read and understand. Problems, issues, and solutions are presented in a straightforward manner.
It was shocking to realize how little we know about the oceans and the seemingly widely held belief the oceans are so huge we can’t negatively impact them no matter what we do.
I came away with a greater appreciation of the beauty and wonder of Earth’s oceans as well as how crucial they are to our survival.
I recommend The World is Blue to everyone.
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