BOOK REVIEW by Nick Goldie.
I love a sunburnt country – and its oceans too
Australia (surprisingly) is a maritime nation. We have the third largest marine area of responsibility in the world, almost twice the area of our ‘ragged mountain ranges and sweeping plains’. We have maritime territories in three oceans ranging from the turtle-infested tropical seas to the icy waters of Antarctica.
We should probably take a little more time to explore our own local patch and CSIRO’s excellent series Science and Solutions for Australia is a good place to start, with the new volume on Oceans.
“Send a copy to your local politician, your daughter, your son, your grandmother …
Like other books from CSIRO Publishing, this is a well-produced quality paperback. As with other books in the series, I’m not sure who is the reader the publishers have in mind. It’s not quite a technical manual, it’s not quite a popular Young Persons’ Guide, it’s not quite a compilation of scientific papers, though all of these come to mind. No matter.
Each section is written by a panel of real experts in their field, mostly from CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, with comprehensive suggestions for further more technical reading. You couldn’t ask for a more authoritative team, though an occasional personal view or anecdote – especially a contradictory one – might be welcome.
What you’ll find here
Chapters cover the various sciences of Ocean: biology, climate, currents, fisheries, mineral resources, and it’s all Australia! I enjoyed the spaghetti diagrams (like the London Underground) of the ocean currents which determine our wind and weather, finding out the best place to throw a message in a bottle into the sea – and where it would be found. But no! – read the chapter on marine pollution and you would be very reluctant to throw anything at all into the fouled oceans, least of all a bottle. Scary stuff, there.
Probably the most significant sections, at least from a human standpoint, are the chapters on climate. The oceans absorb disastrous quantities of human waste: sewage, bottles, plastics, fishing nets, toxins, but the most important human waste product is carbon dioxide: while the oceans can absorb enormous quantities of CO2, along with all the other detritus of civilisation, there must be a limit.
The authors of Oceans, as good scientists, have no doubt that human activities are affecting global climate. It’s one more fact in a volume of interesting, fascinating, occasionally worrying, facts.
So who is the intended reader of this fine production? I would say, anyone interested in Australia’s future. Send a copy to your local politician, your daughter, your son, your grandmother …