New books encourage understanding of the ocean

Abby McGanney Nolan

THE WASHINGTON POST – Life on Earth began in the ocean more than four billion years ago, and the ocean has sustained all living things ever since.

But now, Earth’s water needs to be relieved of various threats so that our planet can become a healthy place to live again.

These new books present three clear messages: that we are all connected by Earth’s oceans, that we need to understand the damage being done to them, and that we need to act now, before the problems become too big to solve.

The world ocean
Written by Rochelle Strauss; illustrated by Natasha Donovan
8 to 12 years old

Author Rochelle Strauss said Earth’s five oceans are not separate from each other. They flow together and contain 97% of the Earth’s water.

After explaining ocean currents and the central role of the “global ocean” in the water cycle, Strauss compares these processes to the human heart: “All life depends on this constant circulation of water, just as you have need your beating heart to keep blood pumping through your body.

But just because it’s huge and mighty doesn’t mean the ocean can protect itself from everything humans have thrown in and taken out.

In addition to releasing excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, people have damaged coastal habitats, removed too much marine life from the ocean, and left behind too many man-made products (such as plastics, hardware fishing and chemicals).

Throughout the book, Strauss offers solutions. Some are easy, like using cold water for laundry so that fewer tiny plastic fibers from your clothes go down the drain and end up in the ocean. (Hot water causes the fibers to break down).

Other solutions are part of the challenging but fascinating field of scientific innovation. For example, a British university student recently solved two problems at once by creating biodegradable plastic from fish products that would otherwise be thrown away.

Whales to the rescue: how whales help shape the planet
Written by Adrienne Mason; illustrated by Kim Smith
8 to 12 years old

For over a century humans have hunted whales with ships and harpoons and sold their blubber, baleen and meat for substantial profits. Whales of various species were chased with such intensity that they nearly disappeared.

Adrienne Mason’s book explains why we need to help whales live and multiply. “As they swim, dive, eat and poop,” she wrote, “whales work as ecosystem engineers.”

Traveling between different depths and over thousands of kilometres, they help maintain the chemical balance of the ocean.

And when they die naturally and their bodies sink to the bottom of the sea, the significant amount of carbon in their bodies is kept out of the earth’s atmosphere.

By working for an ocean where whales can live and die, we are creating a healthier world for future generations of whales, other animals and people.

Washed Ashore: Making Art From Ocean Plastic
By Kelly Crull
From 6 to 10 years old

From the fierce shark on its cover to the swirling ocean at its tip, Washed Ashore shows us that what we throw away can be turned into art that surprises and educates us.

About 15 years ago, Angela Haseltine Pozzi started noticing a lot of plastic litter on the beach near her home in Oregon. With the help of hundreds of volunteers, she began making large animal sculptures from the plastic waste (ranging from bottle caps to tires) that had been collected.

Writer-photographer Kelly Crull showcases 14 of Pozzi’s sculptures, describing each animal and the threats they face, including plastics with jagged edges, abandoned fishing nets and microplastics that travel up the food chain.

Krull mentions ways to keep plastics out of the ocean, like avoiding single-use water bottles and helping with beach cleanups.

He also encourages readers to follow Pozzi’s lead and get creative with ocean protection.