“This book comes as a great gift—an overwhelming reminder of the ocean planet on which we live, with its great wonders and the risks it faces.”
— Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
Ocean Country is an adventure story, a call to action, and a poetic meditation on the state of the seas. But most importantly, it is the story of finding true hope in the midst of one of the greatest crises to face humankind.
Ocean Country: One Woman’s Journey from Peril to Hope in Her Quest to Save the Seas, with a foreword by Carl Safina, North Atlantic Books (2015)
“Liz Cunningham, in the rich tapestry of her book, documents better than any scientific treatise could, what we stand to lose if we continue to let the oceans go.”
— Daniel Pauly, author of Five Easy Pieces: The Impact of Fisheries on Marine Ecosystems
Cunningham’s earnest narration of travels to remote seas around the world is a compelling read. Citing examples of sustainable fisheries and marine-protected areas around the word, the book ends on the hopeful note that we may have stopped hitting the snooze button when it comes to taking action against climate change.
With genuine emotion and great pragmatism, Cunningham makes passionate pleas for the continued health of the planet.
—Publishers Weekly Read more . . .
A moving testament to the human spirit.
—Kirkus Reviews Read more . . .
“The Story of Ocean Country” talk at the New England Aquarium with Elizabeth Stephenson, Manager of the Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF). It highlights the remarkable achievements of ocean heroes and community-based conservation efforts.
“Ocean Country is a heroine’s journey of near-death and discovery, of hopelessness and rebirth. Cunningham’s odyssey reveals how immersion into the problems that overwhelm us is a blessing of self-discovery. Where there is carelessness, we find our tenderness; where there is human suffering, we find our sense of compassion. Where there is damage and degradation, we find faith in ourselves.”
—Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest and director of Project Drawdown
Twenty-one percent of royalties are being donated to the New England Aquarium’s Marine Conservation Action Fund. That’s the percentage of oxygen in each breath we take. Over half of that oxygen comes from plants and algae in the ocean. Every other breath is thanks to them.
The New England Aquarium’s Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF) aims to to protect and promote ocean biodiversity through funding of small-scale, time-sensitive, community-based programs.
Protecting sea turtle eggs from poachers in Costa Rica, rescuing porpoises from fishing weirs in New Brunswick, advocating for stronger protections for manta rays in Peru and finding the last remaining sawfish in Mozambique. These are some of the projects supported by the Marine Conservation Action Fund or MCAF. Since it was founded in 1999, this micro-granting program has funded over 120 small-scale projects in 40 countries and across six continents.
Ricardo Tapilatu, PhD, watching a leatherback turtle return to the sea after laying her eggs on the beach in Papua Indonesia. Photo credit: State University of Papua (UNIPA)
MCAF supports emerging leaders in ocean conservation, including researchers gathering data to protect marine species, as well as grassroots organizers mobilizing communities for positive change. Examples include, Ricardo Tapilatu, PhD, who with his team at the Bird’s Head Leatherback Program in Indonesia, protects tens of thousands of endangered leatherback turtle eggs each year from dangers such as poachers, predators and coastal flooding; and, biologist, Asha de Vos, PhD, who is working to save blue whales from ship strikes in her home country of Sri Lanka by documenting where the whales’ travels intersect shipping lanes. By successfully taking on these challenges, these conservation leaders are creating inspiring stories of hope for the ocean. Learn more about MCAF.
“A moving testament to the human spirit.”
—Kirkus Reviews Read more . . .
“Cunningham’s earnest narration of travels to remote seas around the world is a compelling read. Citing examples of sustainable fisheries and marine-protected areas around the word, the book ends on the hopeful note that we may have stopped hitting the snooze button when it comes to taking action against climate change.”
“With genuine emotion and great pragmatism, Cunningham makes passionate pleas for the continued health of the planet.”
—Publishers Weekly Read more . . .
“Ocean Country is a heroine’s journey of near-death and discovery, of hopelessness and rebirth. Cunningham’s odyssey reveals how immersion into the problems that overwhelm us is a blessing of self-discovery. Where there is carelessness, we find our tenderness; where there is human suffering, we find our sense of compassion. Where there is damage and degradation, we find faith in ourselves and know that human beings can both resist and change all human ignorance.”
—Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest and director of Project Drawdown
“Especially for those of us living inland, this book comes as a great gift—an overwhelming reminder of the ocean planet on which we live, with its great wonders and the risks it faces.”
—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
“Liz Cunningham, in the rich tapestry of her book, documents better that any scientific treatise could, what we stand to lose if we continue to let the oceans go. We should let them be.”
—Daniel Pauly, author of Five Easy Pieces: The Impact of Fisheries on Marine Ecosystems
“Ocean Country is a great read — a moving memoir, a gripping adventure story and a work of committed advocacy all in one volume.”
—San Jose Mercury News/Bay Area News Group
“Powerful, impassioned, personal, and insightful. Ocean Country is part beautifully-written memoir, part stinging expose, and part thrilling adventure book. Gut-wrenching in its truth, it leaves readers with a taste of optimistic possibilities for the sea.”
—Green Child magazine
“I am full of awe and gratitude to Liz Cunningham for sharing her personal story interwoven with the joy and tragedy of the oceans, an account that is both intimate and universal. Ocean Country inspires me to take action to preserve our underwater wilderness. I hope it will have the same effect on many other readers who will enjoy this riveting narrative. A must read for those who want to preserve the beauty and diversity of our world both on sea and on land.”
—Arlene Blum, author of Annapurna: A Woman’s Place and Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life
“As the ticking time bomb of our ocean crisis gets ever closer to detonating, Liz Cunningham brings us face to face with the hard facts. Her description of the transformation of a reef devastated by coral bleaching in just the space of a week, made me want to cry. And yet, even while aching with sorrow for the plight of our oceans, she pushes on through her despondency to find causes for hope. Common sense is breaking out around the world, as people come together to collaborate and build trust, to shift from short-term greed to long-term conservation. A beautifully-written memoir that shows us the ocean through Cunningham’s eyes, with grief for what is lost, awe for what remains, and glimpses of future redemption.”
—Roz Savage, National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, author of Rowing the Atlantic and Stop Drifting, Start Rowing
“Thrilling adventure tale, searing exposé, and moving memoir rolled into one, Ocean Country charts Liz Cunningham’s quest for healing after a near-death encounter with a rogue wave. The story of her odyssey sparkles with wit, wisdom, and excitement. Cunningham doesn’t flinch from devastation and despair. Instead she finds meaning and inspiration in local but sometimes tectonic shifts: fishermen cooperating to reduce catches, citizens guarding ocean refuges, French chefs serving only sustainably-caught fish. Her heartrending—and heart lifting—tales eloquently capture flashes of insight when the dots connect and new options open up. Her book also did something rare and precious: it burnished my hope for the future of our oceans.”
—Karen Garrison, former codirector of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Ocean Program, recipient of the “Heros of the Sea” Peter Benchley Award
“A deeply engaging and well-written book about the enormous environmental costs heaped on our oceans . . . . These stories reveal what’s really at stake in the fight to protect our seas.”
“Cunningham has searched and found a powerful response to one of the greatest questions of our time from the deepest part of herself and expressed it with eloquence and wit and discernment, taking the reader along with her for a marvelous ride into a greater state of awareness.”
—Susan Murphy, author of Minding the Earth, Mending the World
“Wave after wave of gripping narrative—mysterious, funny, prophetic and profound—deftly delivers knowledge crucial to our times. You can give it as a gift to friends and family, you can assign it at any classroom level in any field. You can let it teach you how to take yourself seriously enough to make a difference.”
—Catherine Keller, author of Cloud of the Impossible and The Face of the Deep
“For those who think the oceans are too vast, too remote, for us to irreversibly delete their biodiversity, Ocean Country, is a sharp rejoinder. In her very personal account, Cunningham shows how we attack the oceans’ species on every front. “Biodiversity matters” she tells us — and provides compelling firsthand accounts of why.”
—Stuart Pimm, author of The World According to Pimm: A Scientist Audits the Earth
“The wreckage we humans have caused in the ocean is monumental and dispiriting, its seeming inevitability enough to sadden and immobilize compassionate people who’ve come to feel there’s no longer any meaningful way for them as individuals to help. In Ocean Country, Liz Cunningham faces this tragedy unflinchingly, and working painstakingly through her own personal loss, finds healing and hope in the sea. Bringing us to places of continued abundance and fertility—an Indonesian reef sparkling with life, a fishery restored through a collaboration of fishermen and scientists, a humpback whale nursery where mothers gently tend their calves—her stories are oases of hope, shimmering with the possibility of restoration for the larger, life-giving sea.”
—Deborah Cramer, author of The Narrow Edge: a Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab, and an Epic Journey
“A stunning account of our endangered oceans—of vanishing coral reefs, collapsing fisheries, mindless exploitation and species loss. But that is only the beginning. Time and again, Cunningham discovers threads of hope in people committed to reversing these tragedies. These acts coalesce as a growing community of concern across her sojourn. Taken together, by the end, they unlock a hitherto unimagined and hopeful revelation. You can feel it in the author’s heart. You will feel it in your own.”
—Richard J. Borden, author of Ecology and Experience
“How we’re changing the oceans—and can fix them—can seem all too abstract, until you read Liz Cunningham’s powerful story. She takes you inside her heart as she witnesses a huge coral reef go from vibrantly and colorfully alive to bleached white death over just a few days, and as she feels the splendor of swimming with whales. Her message comes through loud and clear: through our individual actions, each doing what we can, we can nurture the seas we all depend upon, and where we’ve already damaged them, we can nurse them back to health.”
—Anthony Barnosky, author of Dodging Extinction and co-author of End Game
“The ocean is medicine. That’s what Liz Cunningham’s book shows us. It describes the winding, unpredictable neurological cascades that happen when we connect deeply with our waterways. We fall in love, experience awe, wonder, purpose, insight, calm, excitement, solitude, romance, empathy, creativity. We become advocates, warriors, custodians, fixers, champions – we become unstoppable. In Ocean Country we meet people where they are as they heal and are reminded how much we all need such healing now.”
—Wallace J. Nichols, author of Blue Mind
“A vivid picture of Earth’s ocean biodiversity. This is a beautiful book that will make you go do something about preserving that diversity for future generations.”
—Mark Williams, co-author of Ocean Worlds
“What a journey this is—both personal and planetary! These are the kinds of stories we need right now because they help us move from despair to hope. Ocean Country will change the way we look at the seas.”
—Mary Evelyn Tucker, co-coordinator of the Yale University Forum on Religion and Ecology, co-author of Journey of the Universe
“Liz Cunningham takes us on a journey from the Turks and Caicos to the California coastline, to the Mediterranean, and onto the Coral Triangle of the west Pacific. We observe amazing creatures, explore unique habitats and ecosystems, and learn a fair amount of history and science. But the real reward of our adventures is the heightened appreciation we attain for the wonder and beauty, yet fragility, of the world’s oceans. We recognize just why we must fight to defend them against the twin threats of heating and acidification caused by our ongoing burning of fossil fuels. If you were looking for another reason to take action to defend our oceans against ongoing environmental assaults, then Ocean Country will provide it.”
—Michael Mann, director of the Pennsylvania State University Earth Systems Science Center (ESSC), author of Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change
“Better than any book I’ve read recently Ocean Country captures both the dilemma faced by every individual in a world that has lost touch with nature — How can I be part of the solution instead of being part of the problem? — and the only rational response — to re-establish your personal connection with it and with like-minded people wherever you live. Liz Cunningham’s journey is remarkable not only in itself, but because it also symbolizes, and summarizes, important aspects the journeys of everyone concerned about the fate of our planet. Truly, we all live in Ocean Country.”
—Norman MacLeod, author of The Great Extinctions: What Causes Them and How They Shape Life
“If a pilgrimage is a transformative journey to a sacred place, which I believe it is, Liz Cunningham’s quest is a tale of sacred travel at a threshold point in human history. While the oceans are in peril we have it within our power to save them if we humbly recognize our reliance on them and truly experience their miraculous beauty. Her story can stoke ours.”
—Phil Cousineau, author of The Art of Pilgrimage and Stoking the Creative Fires
“Ocean Country is a book about the art of the possible. How it is possible to protect the planet’s glorious richness of sea-lives and the life of fisherfolk? How can we harvest the sea without emptying it? How is it possible to bear the oceanic consequences of run-away carbon catastrophe? How is it possible to write a book that both celebrates and informs, calling us to respond with hearts and minds to the crises of the life-sustaining seas? In her book of underwater adventures, Liz Cunningham shows us how.”
—Kathleen Dean Moore, author of Great Tide Rising and co-editor of Moral Ground
Twenty-one percent of royalties will be donated to conservation organizations. This amount was chosen to highlight the percentage of oxygen in each breath we take and that over one half of that comes from marine plants and algae in the ocean. The research benefited greatly from assistance from the American Cetacean Society, the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, Long Marine Lab, the Marine Conservation Society (UK), the Marine Mammal Center, Parc National de Port-Cros (France), the Ocean Conservancy (West Papua), NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the Reef Ball Foundation, SeaWeb Europe (based in France), the School for Field Studies, the Sea Sanctuaries Trust (West Papua), Sustain (Sustainweb.org/UK), the Turks and Caicos Department of the Environment and Maritime Affairs, WWF-Indonesia and WWF-Spain.
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