The Ocean of Life: The Fate of Man and the Sea (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Emily K's Staff Pick (June 2013):  This is the story of the sea—beginning billions of years ago when the oceans were just dense clouds of swirling vapor above the earth—and so too the story of modern humans, who have existed a mere 150,000 years. Callum Roberts demonstrates how the stories of the sea and humans are inextricably intertwined, and how the fates of both are in severe peril due to humans’ impact on the seas. Roberts, a marine biologist and talented writer, describes the devastating impact of fossil fuel extraction, climate change, chemical and noise pollutions, and over-fishing, and does so in an accessible way. Refreshingly, Roberts contends it is not too late to change course and mitigate the problems we have created. He offers ambitious yet realistic suggestions to reverse this course of destruction we have set upon the seas and ourselves.

— From Emily Katzman’s Staff Picks


Economist Book of the Year --Audubon Book of the Year --American Library Association Award winner - Royal Society Winton prize Finalist - Winner of the Rachel Carson award

A Silent Spring for oceans by "the Rachel Carson of the fish world" (The New York Times) who appeared on the Imax film Wild Ocean and provided the scientific basis for the creation of the first high seas marine protected areas. For fans of Carl Safina and Elizabeth Kolbert.

"Immensely entertaining, although it chronicles a tragedy... No account of the cataclysm is more engaging."
--Mark Kurlansky, The Washington Post

The sea feeds and sustains us, but everywhere we look marine life is under threat, from Caribbean reefs to arctic fisheries to the deepest regions of the sea. In this passionate paean to the sea and its creatures one of the world's foremost marine conservation biologists tells the story of man and the sea, from the earliest traces of life on earth to the oceans as we know them today. He considers the impact of fishing and ocean acidification, rising tides and warming seas, plastics and shifting currents, and reveals what we must do now to preserve our precious oceans. The struggles of Turtles, Dolphins, Whales and Tuna are relatively well known, but few people appreciate just how much our seas have changed in the last fifty years and how many species are now under acute stress. At once passionate and persuasive, The Ocean of Life will appeal to readers of Four Fish and The Sixth Extinction -to those who care about environmental sustainability, and to anyone who loves the sea and its creatures.

"Excellent and engrossing... I hope a great many people read this book."
--G. Bruce Knecht, Wall Street Journal

"Authoritative and furious, urgent and persuasive"
--Sunday Times

About the Author

Callum Roberts is the author of The Unnatural History of the Sea, a Washington Post Book of the Year and winner of the Rachel Carson Environment Book Award. A professor of marine conservation at the University of York, he consulted on the Blue Planet series and the IMAX film The Wild Ocean and is a frequent keynote speaker at environmental conferences (including Mission Blue, TED and the Skoll foundation). He advised and was featured in The End of the Line, a documentary on the global fishing crisis and appeared in the National Geographic documentary America Before Columbus. He is on the board of Seaweb and provided the scientific basis for the creation of the world's first high seas protected network.

Praise For…

“I need to now jump up and down myself to say that Ocean of Life is an excellent and engrossing work. Mr. Roberts has corralled an astonishing collection of scientific discovery. . . . He didn’t set out just to explain what is going on in the oceans. His even more important goal is to consider what the decline in marine life tells us about the future of humankind. . . . I hope a great many people read this book. There can, after all, be no hope of change without an enhanced appreciation for the potential consequences of our impact on the natural world.” —G. Bruce Knecht, Wall Street Journal

“Callum Roberts catalogs the extent of the oceans’ crisis. No account of the cataclysm is more engaging than Roberts’s The Ocean of Life. . . . The book is powerful in its completeness. . . . The rare treasure is the scientist who can bring clarity and wit to the debates. Roberts is such a scientist, and The Ocean of Life is immensely entertaining, although it chronicles a tragedy.” —Mark Kurlansky, The Washington Post

“A story told with both scientific accuracy and narrative skill. . . . I know of no other volume that treats such divergent ocean issues as overfishing, decreasing pH, plastic pollution and biogeographic shifts with this much accuracy and acumen. As a balance to the bad news, each chapter is edged with fascinating details about the life of the sea. . . . Ocean of Life, in detailing sobering facts about the ills that afflict the largest biosphere on earth, is a call to action. 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.” Stephen Palumbi, Nature

“The enormity of the sea’s troubles, and their implications for mankind, are mind-boggling. Yet it is equally remarkable how little this is recognised by policymakers—let alone the general public. . . . There is also a dearth of good and comprehensive books on a subject that can seem too complicated and depressing for any single tome. Callum Roberts, a conservation biologist, has now provided one.”—The Economist

“One of the world’s most prominent and articulate marine scientists, Callum Roberts gives us an updated, comprehensive, and engaging account of the ongoing crisis beneath the waves, and how we humans can turn the situation around. Despite the frightening litany of problems facing the seas, Roberts is optimistic that we can and will mend our ways so that marine resources will be there to help support planet Earth.” —Christian Science Monitor

“It’s probably a bit too soon to start talking about candidates for books of the year. But, within the environmental field, 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. . . . To use the vernacular of his book, he has trawled and plundered these experiences to craft the nearest thing we are ever likely to get to an all-encompassing manifesto for sustainable marine management.” —The Guardian

“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

“Roberts imparts his vast knowledge with a consummate talent for colorful 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, The Telegraph

“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.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Product Details
ISBN: 9780143123484
ISBN-10: 0143123483
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: April 30th, 2013
Pages: 405
Language: English