The water’s edge

Our oceans are in serious trouble

WHEN ALANNA MITCHELL was asked to stop writing stories about science and the environment, she knew she had her fill of life in daily newspapers.

“Give me a break,” says Mitchell, as we chat in her East York, Toronto, home.

An award-winning reporter, Mitchell was named “best environmental reporter in the world,” by Reuters in 2000. Following a fellowship at Oxford University, Mitchell published her first book Dancing at the Dead Sea in 2004. Her latest, Sea Sick, goes a step further, examining the current state of oceans and the potential impacts on, well, life as we know it.

“I came to understand how dependent we are on the ocean and how we are messing it up,” says Mitchell, who travelled the world over the course of three and a half years, chronicling the latest oceanic research in areas such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the mouth of the Mississippi River.

“To me, there is a joy in understanding,” says Mitchell. “Not only what’s going wrong but what the implications are.”

Sea Sick is set to do for ocean health what books such as An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore, did for climate change: namely, inspire change.

“It is the same pattern,” says Mitchell. “As with the early days of climate change, some of the debates are going to feel like that.”

Long story short: as the oceans go so goes most of the life on solid ground — namely, us. The more greenhouse gases we produce, the more the oceans are changing in ways we are only beginning to understand.

“The planet is telling us we are at the point of no return,” says Mitchell. “I think we should take the planet seriously on this one.”

Far from being preachy, Mitchell acts the role of interpreter filtering down technical, scientific information from disparate projects around the world into a unified whole that is at once informative and readable.

Although she, of course, hopes that some steps in the right direction come from the book’s publication, Mitchell steers clear of telling people what to do in their own lives.

“I wouldn’t dream of limiting it,” says Mitchell. “Each of us has a different way of grappling with this.”

Mitchell speaks May 7 at the Toronto Reference Library.


The Green Mile, by Stephen King — what is beautiful about this book is that it shows that you can find true magic and light in the most unsuspected places such as in the deathrow quarter of a prison. And Night, by Elie Wiesel — this unbelievable autobiography symbolized to me the complexity of the human mind.”

Haim Goldenberg is the creator and host of Goldmind, airing on TVTropolis.



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