Ocean of Life by Callum Roberts

‘There is a tide in the affairs of men…’

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Ocean of LifeIn this book, Callum Roberts sets out to argue the case that man is damaging the oceans of the world in ways that may be irreversible if not addressed quickly and determinedly. Prof. Roberts’ track record as a marine biologist and environmentalist is impressive – as well as a Hardy fellowship in conservation biology at Harvard University, he was awarded a fellowship by the Pew Environment Group, (one of the organisations behind the setting up of the new Global Ocean Commission) in marine conservation.

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 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.

Tyre ‘reef’
(Source: Wikimedia)
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.) Roberts finishes the book by listing some of the many organisations working towards marine preservation and giving an idea of the approach each organisation is taking.

Callum Roberts
I did not find this an easy or enjoyable read. It was hard work in places as Roberts piled on more and more evidence to back his arguments, sometimes with greater detail than I felt necessary. However, the message of the book is a vitally important one and Roberts has succeeded in getting that message across. I would highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in environmental matters – and that should really be everyone, shouldn’t it?

NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

3 thoughts on “Ocean of Life by Callum Roberts

  1. “an interest in environmental matters – and that should really be everyone, shouldn’t it?” It should be everyone but unfortunately it never will be. In a former life I was an Ecological Entomologist, I am now my disabled mum’s full time carer, I found through the years that most people view environmental issues as boring or the belief that because they recycle a few items a week there job was done. Anyway, the book sounds interesting and good to know that the author produces possible solutions. To many books on the subject of the environment simply moan about the problem but offer no concrete solutions. Regarding Bush, most Presidents before they leave office will try and push through one large and admirable policy that they wouldn’t have dared implement during their time in the oval office. They are looking at leaving a legacy that will appear altruistic and worthwhile. Of course, they also know that if the policy turns sour it won’t be their problem but the next Presidents. This is all the better if the next President is from the other party.


    • I’ve noticed a little shift towards a more upbeat and practical approach from some environmentalists recently. This one, Monbiot’s ‘Feral’ and Dinerstein’s ‘Kingdom of Rarities’ have left me feeling a tiny bit more optimistic than I have for years. They’re finally changing their approach from telling us what we shouldn’t do to what we should and could – refreshing.

      Haha! At last I’ve met someone who’s even more cynical about politicians than I am!


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