50 Ways to Save the Ocean by Helvarg

David Helvarg. 50 Ways to Save the Ocean. Foreword by Philippe Cousteau. Illustrations by Jim Toomey. Maui: Inner Ocean Publishing, 2006. Paperback, xvi + 186 pp.

The ocean, womb of life on Earth, has become as polluted as have land and air. Parts of it are oxygen starved and lifeless. Parts of it are a vast garbage dump in constant rotation. Parts of it are a nuclear wasteland. Parts of it are full of lethal chemicals that kill marine life or make it too toxic for human consumption. As Philippe Cousteau summarizes the situation in his Foreword, “Our oceans are in peril, and it is up to us to do something to save them” (p. x).

In this book Helvarg, president of the Blue Frontier Campaign and the author of Blue Frontier and The War against the Greens, describes 50 ways in which we can enjoy the ocean while conserving and protecting it, as well as learning about it and sharing our understanding with others.

Each of the 50 chapters reviews the status quo and then makes many suggestions for what he feels are responsible activities. The problem I see is this: While obviously concerned about the ocean, Helvarg puts the cart before the horse when starting with the apparent premise that we ought to enjoy the ocean and its environment and then do something to also conserve both. To my mind, this falls into the same category as eco-tourism: Go enjoy yourself but do so responsibly.

I feel the time has come for a far more responsible attitude. As others have pointed out, the best form of eco-tourism is to stay at home. If we were talking about a handful of people who now and then visit the seaside, there would be no problem with Helvarg’s suggestions. When, however, tens of thousands do so, the impact is enormous, even if those folks were to tiptoe.

Many of the suggestions in this book are halfway between consumerism and responsible environmentalism, and it is difficult to endorse such an approach at this late hour. Instead, people need to be told that all too often pleasurable pursuits have a big environmental price tag. Yes, oceans—like forests—are enjoyable. Yes, responsible enjoyment of them is better than despoiling them. BUT we have already badly damaged our environment, and so the best, if inevitably highly unpopular, recommendation would be to simply stay at home and give the ocean and its beaches a break.

It is a sad fact that the life-giving body of water that covers some 361 million square miles is fast turning into a toxic soup. Instead of further exploiting the ocean, we should do everything we can to restore its integrity. Compromises won’t do.

Copyright ©2007 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in any form requires prior permission from Traditional Yoga Studies.

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