World Without Fish
by Kurlansky, Mark

Examines the threats to the survival of fish in the world's oceans, discussing the damage caused by various types of fishing equipment, the impact of politics on the regulation of fishing, and the harmful effects of overfishing, pollution, and global warming.

Kurlansky, whose children's books include The Cod's Tale (2001) and The Story of Salt (2006), sounds the alarm for the health of the fish, oceans, and, by extension, life on earth. A former commercial fisherman, he brings together a great deal of information and makes a persuasive case for how and why ocean life should be protected. With varied typography, some white-and-red lettering on black pages, and striking full-page illustrations as well as many smaller ones, the book's design is dynamic, though sometimes distracting. Readers who mistake the occasional colorful, huge-print sentences for pull quotes and skip them will miss important points in the text, at least until they figure out that these sentences are not repeated. Back matter includes advice for young activists and an annotated list of environmental groups concerned with marine issues, but the lack of a bibliography or source notes for quotes is disappointing. Still, this eye-catching, clearly written book presents a topic that is not well represented in books for young people. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

The author of Cod (1997) successfully provides readers with a frightening look at the looming destruction of the oceans. Brief sections in graphic-novel format follow a young girl, Ailat, and her father over a couple of decades as the condition of the ocean grows increasingly dire, eventually an orange, slimy mess mostly occupied by jellyfish and leatherback turtles. At the end, Ailat's young daughter doesn't even know what the word fish means. This is juxtaposed against nonfiction chapters with topics including types of fishing equipment and the damage each causes, a history of the destruction of the cod and its consequences, the international politics of the fishing industry and the effects of pollution and global warming. The final chapter lists of some actions readers could take to attempt to reverse the damage: not eating certain types of fish, joining environmental groups, writing to government officials, picketing seafood stores that sell endangered fish, etc. Whenever an important point is to be made, font size increases dramatically, sometimes so that a single sentence fills a page—attention-getting but distractingly so. While it abounds with information, sadly, no sources are cited, undermining reliability. Additionally, there are no index and no recommended bibliography for further research, diminishing this effort's value as a resource. Depressing and scary yet grimly entertaining. (Nonfiction/graphic-novel hybrid. 10 & up)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Being A Brief Outline Of The Problem
A large stock of individuals of the same species, relative to the number of its enemies, is absolutely necessary for its preservation. —Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species
Most stories about the destruction of the planet involve a villain with an evil plot. But this is the story of how the earth could be destroyed by well-meaning people who fail to solve a problem simply because their calculations are wrong. Most of the fish we commonly eat, most of the fish we know, could be gone in the next fifty years.
This includes salmon, tuna, cod, swordfish, and anchovies. If this happens, many other fish that depend on these fish will also be in trouble. So will seabirds that eat fish, such as seagulls and cormorants. So will mammals that eat fish, such as whales, porpoises, and seals. And insects that depend on seabirds, such as beetles and lizards. And mammals that depend on beetles and lizards. Slowly—or maybe not so slowly—in less time than the several billion years it took to create it—life on planet Earth could completely unravel.
People who are in school today are lucky to have been born at a special moment in history. The Industrial Revolution, beginning in the mid-eighteenth century and continuing for the next 120 years shifted production from handcrafts to machine-made factory goods and in so doing completely changed the relationship of people to nature, the relationship of people to each other, politics, art, and architecture—the look and thought of the world. In the next fifty years, much of your working life, there will be as much change in less than half the time. The future of the world, perhaps even the survival of the planet, will depend on how well these changes are handled. And so you have more opportunities and more responsibilities than any other generation in history.
One of the great thinkers of the Industrial Revolution was an Englishman named Charles Darwin. In 1859, he had published one of the most important books ever written: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, more commonly known by its shortened title: On the Origin of Species.
In his book, Darwin explained the order of nature as a system in which all the many various plant and animal species struggle for survival. He did not see nature as particularly nice or kind, but as a cruel system in which species attempted to kill and dominate other species in order to secure the survival of their own kind. He wrote, “We do not see, or we forget, that the birds which are idly singing round us, mostly live on insects or seeds, and are thus constantly destroying life.”
Plants and animals are organized into groups with seven major levels or categories: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus (plural: genera), species.
A codfish and a human belong to the same kingdom, which is animals. They also belong to the same phylum, which is vertebrates (animals with spines). But after that, they break off into completely different classes— cod are fish and humans are mammals. More specifically, humans are vertebrates of the class known as mammals in the order known as primates, which we share with monkeys and lemurs. We belong to the family Hominidae, which we share with apes and chimpanzees. Within that family, we are of the genus Homo, which are Hominidae that walk standing up on two feet. (Several other Homo genera have all died off and we are the only surviving species of this family: Homo sapiens.) Cod, on the other hand, are fish—specifically fish with jaws—that belong to a family called Gadidae. This fish family is fairly evolved, has elaborate fins, and lives in the bottom part of the ocean. They hunt voraciously the species living directly over and beneath them, and have white flesh greatly favored by Homo sapiens.
Darwin wrote of how all species struggle for the survival of their own group. So it is not surprising that we humans have the greatest affection for organisms that are biologically close to us. Killing our own species is the worst thing we can do. Killing close relatives to our species, like monkeys, though it occurs, is revolting to most of us. We tend to care more about our own class—mammals, such as whales and seals and polar bears—than we do about fish. Is that because they are in a different class? Is that why people tend to have less sympathy for animals that are not in our phylum, like insects? Ultimately, a vegetarian is a human who rejects killing living things from his own kingdom—animals—but accepts killing from the other kingdom—plants.

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