Posted by Helaine Becker
We know the ocean is at risk. Rising global temperatures, deoxygenation, and increasing acidity are all serious threats to marine ecosystems. Knowing these facts, it’s easy to fall victim to despair.
But there is reason to hope – lots of it. And that’s one of the inspirations for why I wrote The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Sea, my new book from Kids Can Press.
It’s an experiment-based science book that teaches kids through first-hand exploration how different aspects of the marine system work – why ice floats, how currents form, how fish swim. It also gives kids a chance to explore environmental issues, like the enormous garbage island in the middle of the Pacific, or how an oil boom works.
But The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Sea is more than an experiment book. It’s also a primer on the threats facing the ocean. And most importantly, it’s a serious discussion of what people today, all over the world, are doing to protect the sea and minimize the impacts of human activity.
We all know that the media focuses on negative stories. They are immediate adrenalin-boosters, and feed into the human need to constantly scan the horizon for danger. But that focus on risk means we don’t really hear the other half of the story – we don't hear about the car that didn’t crash or the lost wallet that was retrieved.
This is true when discussing environmental issues too. We hear about the coral dying, the sharks being finned, and the Dead Zones expanding. But few ordinary people realize that Dead Zones have also disappeared. That corals can be regrown. And that new laws across North America are in place that will help protect our seas well into the future.
The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Sea presents it all: the facts, the risks, and the heartening stories of recovery.
Some of the facts may surprise you –like learning pearls are NOT caused by bits of grit that get caught in the oyster’s shell!). Some may delight you – like discovering how the beluga whales of the St. Lawrence River are no longer in danger of extinction, thanks to a concerted effort by Quebec’s citizens and business community. Some may even astound you. But in the end, you (and your students) will discover the ocean is larger, more complex, and more diverse than anything you could have ever imagined.
The truth is the ocean is under serious threat. We can’t be Pollyannas, pretending there are no problems. But we also can’t be Eeyores, seeing nothing but doom in our future. The reality is more nuanced. There are many reasons for optimism.
Optimism, I think, is a requirement for children’s non-fiction. To tell young people, “all is lost” is counter-productive. It negates them, and their future. It also, plainly, is false; it's unsubstantiated opinion.
The facts point in the other direction. Where there is life, there is hope. And there’s lots of life in the ocean: More, in fact, than anywhere else on the planet. Resilient, adaptaive, wildly creative life.
Shouldn’t that fact alone give us reason to hope?