Rod Fujita.Heal the Ocean: Solutions for Saving Our Seas. Foreword by Peter Benchley. Gabriola Island, Canada: New Society Publishers, 2003. Paperback, xii + 226 pages.
I remember reading Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki as a young boy and being horrified at the fact that out in the middle of the Pacific he reported seeing plastic bottles afloat. Since then—he made his lonely raft voyage in 1947—ocean pollution has become much, much worse. Discarded plastic bottles are the least of our offenses. Billions of tons of raw or only partly treated sewage and nuclear waste have made a veritable mess out of oceans, the amniotic fluid of life on Earth.
The oceans cover 71% of our planet’s surface with an estimated 326 million trillion gallons of water (which amounts to 98% of all available water). This sounds like an inexhaustible supply of water. Yet, we need every gallon of it in order to maintain our already shaky ecological equilibrium.
Whenever I browse available statistics on oceanic pollution, I feel deeply frustrated. Our penchant for environmental destruction seems uncontrollable. Then when I observe the US’s relentless effort to gain control over the seas by having the United Nations declare them “world heritage” (and available for any kind of abuse by the wealthy nations), I feel both outraged and powerless.
Rod Fujita’s Heal the Ocean is something of a healing balm, for this veteran environmentalist actually has come up with practical ways in which to turn the tide around, so to speak. Fujita, who is a marine ecologist and a senior scientist with Environmental Defense in Oakland, California, has devoted himself to the study of the ocean and its living beings for over two decades. He knows the literature but also has extensive first-hand experience of our living seas, which together make this book both informed and informative as well as lively reading. His love for the ocean is obvious, and his positive attitude rubs off.
Of course, it is impossible for anyone to be overly sanguine about anything to do with the present state of our seas, and Fujita doesn’t fail to mention our various transgressions in regard to the maritime environment. But he also has many positive tales to tell and, most importantly, he has come up with a number of highly practical suggestions some of which have already been tested in concrete situations.
Fujita is realistic enough to acknowledge that globalization cannot be stopped. But he affirms his belief that it can be guided along sounder avenues than commercial interest groups tend to pursue. He is arguing, among other things, for new trade rules, which include both positive incentives (e.g., increased market demand for sustainably caught fish) and negative incentives (e.g., trade sanctions). Above all, he insists, we need to establish a comprehensive system of ocean governance based on an ocean conservation ethic that is based on our deepest values about life.
Fujita is positive that a new eco-friendly paradigm is in the making, though a great deal more will have to be done to overcome lethargy and ignorance both on the part of individuals and institutions (especially those profiting from the exploitation of the seas). He strongly argues for media campaigns as well as grassroots campaigns to speed up the present “idea epidemic” of an informed, non-angry environmental activism. His environmental ethic builds on his belief that we innately love Nature ( biophilia). We just must remember this love in order to activate its strength. I agree wholeheartedly with his conclusion: “To heal the ocean, we must heal ourselves.” I would add that both healings can and must happen simultaneously. What an inspired and encouraging book!
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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