Ocean Country: One Woman’s Journey from Peril to Hope in Her Quest to Save the Seas
By Liz Cunningham (North Atlantic Books, 2015)

After a near-death experience in the Pacific Ocean, writer Liz Cunningham set out on a unique journey: to explore her relationship with the ocean. Along the way, she traveled the world, met people from all walks of life, and explored marine-protected areas, ghost gear initiatives and the sustainable seafood movement. These are just some of the solutions needed to improve the health and management of our ocean resources, as Cunningham lays out in Ocean Country.

An image from Cunningham’s travels through the village of Mantigola on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

Full disclosure: the first part of this book is pretty darn depressing. As Cunningham uncovers all the ways in which humanity has negatively impacted our water world, she becomes overwhelmed and frustrated. The stress she recounts felt relatable, as did the way she learned to cope with and understand how individuals are part of a complex global problem. The ocean’s problems are not something that can be solved over night by any one individual. They need to be addressed by political will, market demand and conscious consumers, all working towards solutions together. Which brings Cunningham to the circular economy.

The circular economy promotes reusing and re-purposing instead of the traditional “take-make-dispose model.” As environmentalist David Suzuki has said: “You cannot have infinite growth in a finite system.” This seems simple enough, but the goal of modern economics is one of continual growth — even when it places our planet and oceans at risk.

Ocean Country takes a positive turn as Cunningham dives into circular-economy solutions. And hurray, there is hope for the future! Some of these solutions include investments in renewable energy, eradication of toxic chemicals, co-operative management of fisheries, re-using materials. These are actions that can apply to a broad range of projects, like municipal composting, sustainable fisheries management, and even the development of carpets made from recycled ghost gear. By re-using products, we stop the conveyor belt of plastic, moving from land to sea, while reducing our impacts on the extraction of raw resources.

If you are looking for a book that explores ocean issues, while providing real-life solutions, then Ocean Country is the book for you.

Find the book on Amazon here.

21% of Ocean Country’s royalties go to the New England Aquarium’s Marine Conservation Action Fund: http://www.andersoncabotcenterforoceanlife.org/catalysts-for-change/habitat-conservation/marine-conservation-action-fund/

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