Speaker: Mark Worden (Standard British accent)
Callum Roberts is professor of Marine Conservation at the University of York. He is also the author of the book, Ocean of Life, as he explains:
Callum Roberts (Standard British/very mild Scottish accent)
Well, I’m in London, at the Royal Society, today as one of the short-listed authors for the Royal Society Winton Science Book Prize, which is “the Booker Prize for science books.” I’ve been shortlisted for my book, Ocean of Life: How Our Seas Are Changing, which is a book all about the many different ways in which the oceans are changing under human influence around the world. For most of human history we’ve looked at the oceans as being relatively stable andunaffected by what we do, but in fact we have gained the ability to alter the seas, even to the very deepest depths of the abyss, and the remotest distances from land, and with that power now, we have to accept responsibility to control the forces that we’ve unleashed, and that is something which is much more challenging, so my book really is a wake-up call about what people are doing to the oceans, and how the oceans are changing because of us, but it’s also, if you like, a manifesto of what can we do to save ourselves and the sea at the same time, because the sea is ultimately the thing which human life depends on. It’s enormously important in maintaining the livability of our planet. It occupies 95 per cent of the living space on this planet and that means it’s profoundly important for us, and we ignore that fact at our peril.
So is he an optimist?
I am an optimist and I have reasons for optimism, apart from the innate ones that some people are pessimists, some are optimists! I’ve seen huge progress in the last 20 years, in terms of growing awareness of the effects that we’re having in the oceans, and a growing understanding of how to go about managing them better. That has filtered all the way up from village level in countres like the Philippines to the United Nations, where ideas such as establishing marine protected areas are being discussed very seriously, and targets are being set for ambitious expansion of global protected area networks. So I am optimistic that we are committed to change and that there is a move away from treating the oceans just as a garbage dump and somewhere where we can take as much fish as we like from. We know that that is no longer true, and we’re just struggling to get to grips with what that means for changing the way that we... we treat the oceans and that we manage them into the future.
And there is another reason for looking after our oceans:
The funny thing is that, you know, while we think of fish and life in the sea as very different, alien, to us, actually we are marine creatures, we originated in the sea, we have evolved from creatures that lived in the sea, and 550 million years ago our ancestors were probably sponges, and they eventually led, through the process of evolution, to fish and then to land animals, and then eventually to ourselves. And we carry that legacy of the oceans in our body to this day: the... the proportions of salts in our bloodstream are almost identical to the proportions of salts in seawater, and that means that we are the sea, we carry it with us always, and I think, with that awareness, we should treat the seas much better than we do.