Diving into the Deep Blue

By Krislyn Placide

January 7, 2016


Ocean Country: One Woman's Voyage from Peril to Hope in her Quest To Save the Seas by Liz Cunningham, North Atlantic Books (September, 2015) 

Growing up a ten-minute drive from the ocean, I never saw it the way Liz Cunningham sees it until I read Ocean Country. People from my hometown of Delray Beach, Florida don’t usually go very long without dipping a toe into the Atlantic, but we also take it for granted.

As a surfer, and then—after a serious surfing injury—as a diver, Cunningham looks deep into the blue. She becomes familiar with the biodiversity of the underwater ecosystems she explores and sees the effects of climate change, overfishing, and other hazards on marine wildlife.

“What will I do?” she asks, looking in the mirror. “Just enjoy the beauty of the sea and consume it like the last few truffles in a box, leaving it empty for the next generation?”

Through lush narratives detailing her journeys across the world, Cunningham introduces the reader to a wide web of people who are working to save the oceans. Marine ecologists, biologists, sociologists all contribute what they can.

As we know, conservation is not a job for one person, one skill set, or even one idea. “The silver bullet would have to be a multitude of bullets: stopping overfishing, instituting proper sewage treatment, and limiting nutrient runoff and carbon dioxide emissions,” Cunningham writes. 

One gets the sense that the work Cunningham and her allies are doing is fulfilling, even if the results are uncertain. It’s a labor of love that the reader is invited to get in on. To conclude, the author gives this advice: “Find something to save. Be specific. Now’s the time.”

She holds the mirror up to us, and we each have to ask ourselves, “What will I do?”