Green book roundup: Virtual water, bath toys lost at sea and more
From the impact of shrimp farms on the world's mangroves to the eternal life of plastic in our oceans, these five books hold water.
Mon, Apr 25, 2011 at 10:54 AM
"Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink." So wrote Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," written at the end of the 18th century. Are we doomed to repeat the ancient mariner's complaint? The following five new and forthcoming books show that it all depends on which goggles you look through. While the authors of these books would agree that it’s time to clean up our act and reconsider our relationship to water, they all propose hopeful approaches to turning this ship around. From the importance of protecting the world's rapidly disappearing mangroves to the concept of "virtual water," these smart and informative books will inspire you to dive deep into a sea of important water issues.
Publisher: Free Press
Is it possible to love something without appreciating or respecting it? Charles Fishman — award-winning investigative and magazine journalist, senior writer at Fast Company magazine, and bestselling author of "The Wal-Mart Effect" — thinks so. His latest book, “The Big Thirst,” explores our strange and complex relationship to water, and argues that despite a steadily decreasing global supply of clean, fresh water, we actually have more than enough of the precious stuff: We just don't think about it, or use it, smartly. In “The Big Thirst,” Fishman suggests that it’s time to reconsider how we approach and use water in the same way we’ve begun to reevaluate and make changes to our food system. He describes a number of promising advances currently being developed and tested to increase our ability to harvest and produce clean water, and maintains that if we approach the challenge with creativity and rational thinking, there will always be plenty of water to go around.
Publisher: Island Press
There have been a number of reports lately about increasing threats to mangroves around the world, the impact their decline has on climate change, and what some desperate scientists and environmentalists are doing to try to save them. Mangroves provide habitats for fisheries and wildlife, filtration for water, stabilization for sediments, and coastal protection against storms and rising seas. They’re also rapidly disappearing. Kennedy Warne, founding editor of New Zealand Geographic and author of “Let Them Eat Shrimp,” knows a thing or two about these misunderstood but tremendously important saltwater forests. His work for National Geographic has taken him “from the sea ice of the Gulf of St Lawrence to the mangrove swamps of Bangladesh; from the rainforests of Fiordland to the kelp forests of Cape Town.” In this vivid, fascinating book, Warne demonstrates how a seemingly innocuous meal of shrimp can be tragically linked to “murdered fisherman in Honduras, impoverished women in Ecuador, and disastrous hurricanes along America’s Gulf coast.” It’s a tough pill to swallow: Shrimp has become a beloved, affordable luxury food in the West. Unfortunately, shrimp aquaculture, along with vacation resorts, urban expansion, and other development, has led to the destruction of almost half of the world’s mangroves. With “Let Them Eat Shrimp,” Warne shows why the protection and rehabilitation of the world’s mangroves are essential to the health of the environment and the rights of native peoples.
by Ted Danson with Michael D’Orso
In the late 1980s, Ted Danson joined forces with environmental activist and lawyer Robert Sulnick to stop Occidental Petroleum from drilling 60 oil wells near Will Rogers State Beach in Santa Monica, Calif. Their success inspired the two men to start an organization called American Oceans Campaign, which focused on coastal pollution and offshore oil drilling. In 2001, American Oceans Campaign joined forces with several other organizations to form Oceana, an oceans advocacy nonprofit, which focuses on water and beach quality, fisheries and fish habitat, and marine sanctuaries. Now Danson has teamed with award-winning journalist Michael D’Orso to write “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do To Save Them.” A celebratory and cautionary look at the world’s oceans, this beautiful book is rich with more than two decades of research and activism, and balances visually stunning photos, charts and graphics with a thoughtful and engaging narrative.
“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”
by Donovan Hohn
Publisher: Viking Adult
They say that truth is stranger than fiction, and “Moby-Duck” may illustrate that old adage to a tee. Other things “Moby-Duck” illustrates: “The secretive world of shipping conglomerates, the daring work of Arctic researchers, the lunatic risks of maverick sailors, and the shadowy world of Chinese toy factories.” If that doesn’t pique your interest, how about this: On Jan. 10, 1992, a container ship bound from Hong Kong to Tacoma, Wash., lost part of its cargo when it was rocked by 40-foot waves. Among the merchandise tossed into the Pacific Ocean on that fateful day were 7,200 packs of bathtub toys, each containing a blue turtle, a green frog, a red beaver and a yellow duck. When then-English teacher Donovan Hohn heard about the lost bath toys, he found himself flooded with questions, among them: Where did the toys come from? What were they made of? How much cargo vanishes at sea, and if it floats, how and where will it travel? What kinds of weather events occur underwater, and how well do we fathom them? These questions ultimately led Hohn on a voyage of discovery that took him from Alaska to Hawaii, and China to the Northwest Territories. Hohn writes about science and adventure with originality and humor, all the while drawing attention to tough subjects such the unthinkable amount and near immortality of plastic pollution in our oceans, ground by the seas into tiny particles and poisoning marine life.
“Virtual Water: Tackling the Threat to Our Planet’s Most Precious Resource”
by Tony Allan
Publisher: I. B. Tauris
by Tony Allan
Publisher: I. B. Tauris
Tony Allan is an internationally esteemed expert in water resources and the political economy of water policy and its reform. Formerly a professor at the University of London, he founded the SOAS-King’s College Water Research Group, where he continues to be an active researcher and supervisor of research students. In 2008, Allan was named the Stockholm Water Prize Laureate for his pioneering work in the development of key concepts in the understanding and communication of water issues and how they are linked to agriculture, climate change, economics and politics. His concept, which measures how water is embedded in the production and trade of food and consumer products, is called “Virtual Water,” and is the subject of his forthcoming book, due in the U.S. this August. “Virtual Water: Tackling the Threat to Our Planet’s Most Precious Resource” exposes the real impact of our modern lifestyle and shows how we as individuals, and governments globally, can make a vital contribution to managing our water use in a more sustainable and planet friendly way.
MNN homepage photo: Patrick Hoesly/Flickr
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