Just in time for Earth Day, I have a great book review for you, straight from The Beard. When World Without Fish arrived in the mail (Workman Publishing sent a review copy) Clay snatched it right up and I haven't seen it since! He's been really excited about it, so I'll let him tell you all about it.
I admit it was the cover of the book World Without Fish that dared me to pick it up in the first place. There is a little scuba diver with a thought bubble that reads: “how could we let this happen?” that awakened some sleeping duty deep within me to at least mobilize my mind in preparation for Earth Day this year.
A book targeted at younger readers (as are some of my favorite reads) It has engaging typography, is slickly designed and has interesting illustrations and side notes sprinkled throughout. Getting started with the reading I was nearly put off by the doomsday notes the author strikes early on and the other more embarrassing obstacle of my not having been raised anywhere near the ocean and therefore lacking proper appreciation for what goes on all around the world in oceans and seas.
A mark of a truly successful piece of writing is one which takes an issue that the reader is ignorant, disinterested and complacent about and truly educates him, opening his mind to the complexity, beauty and gravity of the situation he faces. The author Mark Kurlansky illustrates step by step how the destruction of life in our oceans relates directly to the destruction of life on land. With the strongest language he posesses, without sounding like a radical and with great love and sincerity the author urges the reader to consider what life would be like without fish. And before I had time to think “so what,” he brought to my attention how all living things rely on one another for survival. “All life is interconnected,” Kurlansky writes “and altered circumstances will change the order of life at sea, which will also change life on land...We all live on the same planet and live in the same natural order.What plants and animals do alters human life, and what humans do alters plant and animal life. Even the smallest changes can have unforseen results that are extremely difficult to change back.”
Next we are educated about the principle causes of destruction in the oceans. More than two thirds of the book deals with fishing, including fascinating cultural and political histories, the dangers and causes of overfishing and how man’s direct involvement as a predator in the ocean equipped with technology and cunning is a force and factor in the problem. Kurlansky is himself a fisherman and treats the subject with great delicacy, laying out the complexity of the issues. The rest of the bulk of the book deals with environmental factors. Starting witth the industrial revolution up to our day, mankind has made a mess of the soil, air and oceans with contaminants that will not be easy to remedy. PCB’s, Mercury, Lead, Chromium, plastic, oil spills including the worst disaster in history which happened only ONE YEAR ago (lest we take pride in the strides we are making to reverse pollution) garbage from the US, garbage from Japan...deep breath...all making it difficult for fish to do what fish were created to do. When the smallest life forms in the ocean are laden with poisons and the smallest fish rely on them for food, by the time the biggest predators eat them, the poisons have compounded making it difficult to live, let alone reproduce and flourish. At this stage in the reading, things seemed pretty gloomy. It is difficult for my mind to concieve of a reversal to the destruction we have caused our planet to suffer. (It brought to mind apocolyptic scriptures about the earth suffering mankind’s many abuses and about the violent burning of the earth!)
By now, all I really wanted to know was how for starters I could a) stop engaging in the destructive behavior and b) how to begin to help reverse it. As it turns out, refusing to eat fish is not among the wise solutions! The author offers several thoughtful starting points including educationg ourselves, learing where our fish comes from and what methods were used to catch it as well as a list of resources to read about current sustainably caught fish by species or fishery (the marine stewardship council www.msc.org, and www.montereybayaquarium.org among many) Kurlansky believes “When all fishing becomes sustainable fishing, as it was for centuries, the crisis will be over--or at least half-over. There will still be the huge problems of climate change and pollution to be solved before fish--and the way of life of our coastlines and the seas themselves--will have been saved.” But, he believes the total destruction of the ocean can be avoided if we decide to act today.
To summarize the experience, reading this book reminded me that I am by belief and by practice one who has decided to act when the worthy call to action is raised. Mark Kurlansky sounds the alarm without shifting the blame around. We are stewards of our planet and the responsibility for reversing the damage rests on us. The enjoyment of God’s most intricate creations and mysteries are also ours to discover as we struggle to preserve the waters that flow between the continents of His green earth.