Literate wanderings in a tormented world full of wounds, led by accomplished traveler, writer and Blue Ocean Institute founder Safina (Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth’s Last Dinosaur, 2006, etc.).
“We are not just consumers but citizens, not just citizens but members of a living family, miracles of evolution, manifestations of the awesome mystery of creation, singularly able to perceive and consider the universe, our place in it, and our role.” So writes the author, with appropriate reverie but without a trace of treacle, in his latest, which enfolds two contradictory impulses: the one to stay home and tend to one’s garden, and the other to travel the planet and chronicle all the damage we’re doing to it. Safina manages to strike a balance. In these pages, he spends a good amount of time at home on the easternmost stretches of Long Island, at a boggy, overgrown, insect-rich place long considered “worthless land.” Yet, rejecting the closed-in-ness of another beach book, Henry Beston’s The Outermost House (1928), Safina stretches his legs and makes his way to distant points. One is high up on the Chukchi Sea of northwestern Alaska, where the local people are watching the polar ice melt and the sea level rise, washing away their communities and softening the permafrost. Another is the barrier coral reef off Belize, a disappearing place that makes the author “burdened by foreboding.” Along the way, Safina ponders what the planet will look like when, as it’s expected to do as early as 2050, the human population grows to nine billion and our resources are strapped even further—for we all like to drive to a well-stocked store, as he notes, and now twice as many of us will be clamoring to do so. Most of the author’s arguments, as such, are familiar. The form of his delivery is not, however, combining solid science and excellent storytelling.
A superb work of environmental reportage and reflection.