Seasick: The Global Ocean in Crisis – Book Review

Alanna Mitchell, former environment reporter for the Globe and Mail, and author of Dancing at the Dead Sea has written a major and important book about the sea. Or maybe it is about climate change, and it impact on life in the sea. It is a must read for anyone concerned about climate change. It stands beside The Weathermakers for its importance to our understanding of the science behind climate change.

The author travels around the world seeking information on the state of the world’s oceans. In the Gulf of Mexico, she works on a research vessel that is investigating the oxygen deprived dead zone at the mouth of the Mississippi. She visits the Great Barrier Reef, to visit with scientists who are hoping that given the Reef’s size and diversity, perhaps at least some of it will survive. She travels to Zanibar, Halifax, and Plymouth England, to talk to the world’s best experts on the biology of the oceans. And she travels 3000 feet deep in a submersible off the Florida Keys, to catalog deep water sponges. The many interesting places she went, and the interesting people she talks to make the book enjoyable.

But it is the science, laid out in one place, that is gripping. Carbon dioxide in the air is absorbed by the oceans, making them more acidic. In the past 50 years, the ocean’s pH has dropped from 8.2 to 8.05. This doesn’t sound like much, but human blood must be maintained within a range of .1 pH or we die. The ocean’s pH has already changed enough to kill a human. And ocean biology is a large unknown to us. There are thousands of species that aren’t catalogued, let alone studied. Plankton biology in particular is largely unknown.

And the role the ocean’s biology plays in regulating CO2 levels in the air is enormous. The potential feedback loop from the ocean makes all others seem trifling. We must be careful.

Much of the science presented is new. Ocean life is simply not as well known to us as land based creatures. Because the science is new, it has not been well presented to the general public. Until now.

This book needs to be translated into many languages, and read around the world. Almost every nation on earth has a relationship with the sea. If we want that to continue we must act.

Read this book.

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