Archives For Oceans


“An Ocean Epic for a Plastic Age

A review of
The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea…

by Donovan Hohn

Review by Brent Aldrich.

MOBY DUCK - Donovan HohnMoby-Duck: The True Story
of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and
of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers,
Environmentalists, and Fools,
Including the Author,
Who Went in Search of Them.
Donovan Hohn.
Hardback: Viking Books, 2011.
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If I had to, I could probably count the number of times I’ve seen the ocean on one hand… Four. Throw in the Gulf of Mexico and I might need to use two hands. The ocean doesn’t have a pressing daily reality for me, despite it occupying the majority of the earth’s surface, and with water increasingly becoming a contested resource. And even for folks who might dwell daily beside it, it seems difficult to image the scale of the ocean, or of the complicated web of causes and effects – economic, political, environmental – that make water a pressing issue. And so the question: how to make something as large and complex as the ocean fathomable? Even more, how to make it a thing for which we can feel affection?

Art, I think, can do such a thing. By drawing upon as many layers of complexity and detail and signification as possible, and crystallizing these into a single image, art can make particulars stand in for and relate to the whole. Although I tend to think most often in terms of visual arts, literature, of course, does this as well. Donovan Hohn’s Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them, reads as such a work. Although a long journalistic essay at heart, Moby-Duck’s elaborate and beautiful narrative, well-developed characters, and attention to the details that make any particular place what it is, turn this book into a delightful read.

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“The Exploitation
of the World’s Oceans

A review of
Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food.
By Paul Greenberg.

Reviewed by Sara Sterley.

FOUR FISH - Paul GreenbergFour Fish:
The Future of the Last Wild Food.

Paul Greenberg.
Hardback: The Penguin Press, 2010.
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In January of 2010, after much waffling, I decided to stop eating commercially-farmed meat. I came to this conclusion after reading lots of Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin and Wendell Berry (among others) over the course of a few years. We buy a pig every January and a quarter of grass-fed beef every summer from a local farmer who we have come to know and of whose farming practices we approve. I typically eat vegetarian if we’re out to eat or at a friend’s house, but, increasingly and happily, more and more restaurants are jumping on the local food bandwagon and our friends and family tend to go out of their way to buy meat from a local butcher or farmer’s market when we come over for dinner. All that to say, my resolution has caused little actual sacrifice on my part.

Last year, when I pledged to avoid “bad” meat, I didn’t really set out any rules on fish other than to attempt to stick with fish species rated green by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. I don’t eat much fish, so I didn’t see the need to spend much time deciding what fish to eat and which ones to avoid.

That is, until I finished Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg. Greenberg uses four of today’s most popular and widespread fish species to describe in detail the exploitation of the world’s oceans: salmon, sea bass, cod, and blue fish tuna.

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“An Abiding Love of Nature”

A Review of
Three Recent Nature Books
From the University of California Press.

 Reviewed by Chris Smith.


The Illustrated Atlas of Wildlife.
Hardback: U California Press, 2009.
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Exploring the Hidden Depths of the Underwater World.

Paul Rose and Anne Laking
Hardback: U California Press, 2009.
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Elephant Reflections.
Karl Ammann and Dale Peterson.
Hardback: U California Press, 2009.
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I have long thought that an education rooted in nature study would go a long way toward making us and our children love, respect and live peaceably with all God’s creation.  Anna Botsford Comstock makes this point well in the introduction to her classic work, Handbook of Nature Study:

Nature-study cultivates in the child a love of the beautiful; it brings to him early a perception of color, form and music.  He sees whatever there is in his environment, whether it be the thunder-head piled up in the western sky, or the golden flash of the oriole in the elm … Also, what there is of sound, he hears; he reads the music score of the bird orchestra, separating each part and knowing which bird sings it.  And the patter of the rain, the gurgle of the brook, the sighing of the wind in the pine, he notes and loves and becomes enriched thereby.  But, more than all, nature-study gives the child a sense of companionship with life out-of-doors and an abiding love of nature.

Comstock goes on to note that nature study begins in our observation of and engagement with our environment that is immediately at hand around us.  Eventually, however, in the course of nature study, we begin to learn about plants, animals and habitats in other places around the globe.  Toward this end, the University of California Press has recently published three excellent books, which would fit well within a course of – formal or informal – nature study.  The first of these books is a fabulous reference book about the animal kingdom, The Illustrated Atlas of Wildlife.  This book is filled with vibrant color photography, useful illustrations and maps, and it begins with an introductory section on the “Living Earth,” which provides a framework for the remainder of the book.  In addition to overviewing vital topics like the ecological balance needed in a place, threats to animal life and conservation, this introduction also briefly surveys the basic types of habitats around the earth: forests, grasslands, dry and desert places, frozen and aquatic habitats.  The remainder of the book is divided into eight sections representing basically the seven continents (although Australia is expanded to include all of Australasia and Oceania and Antarctica to include both polar regions) and one section on all the oceans.  These eight sections are broken down into a total of 57 regions which covers the vast majority of the earth’s surface, land or sea.  In a two page spread, the topography, climate and animals of a particular region are presented in clear, simple and memorable ways using both textual and visual media.  Continue Reading…