One Woman's Voyage from Peril to Hope in her Quest To Save the Seas
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, the rapidly degrading state of our environment. After a near-drowning accident in which she was temporarily paralyzed, Liz Cunningham crisscrosses the globe in an effort to understand the threats to our dazzling but endangered oceans. This intimate account charts her thrilling journey through unexpected encounters with conservationists, fishermen, sea nomads, and scientists in the Mediterranean, Sulawesi, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Papua, New Guinea.
About the Author
LIZ CUNNINGHAM is the author of Talking Politics: Choosing the President in the Television Age (Praeger), which features frank and probing oral-history interviews with top television journalists such as Tom Brokaw, Larry King, and Robin MacNeil. She has written for Earth Island Journal, East Bay Express, the Marin Poetry Center Anthology, The Outward Bound International Journal, Times of the Islands, and the San Francisco Chronicle. She has collaborated with institutions such as the Academy for Educational Development, the Constitutional Rights Foundation, the Tides Foundation, and the Smithsonian Institution. She also serves on the board of Outward Bound Peacebuilding and holds a B.A. in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine.
"With genuine emotion and great pragmatism, Cunningham makes passionate pleas for the continued health of the planet." —Publishers Weekly
"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." —Booklist
"Ocean Country is a great read—a moving memoir, a gripping adventure story and a work of committed advocacy all in one volume." —Georgia Rowe, Bay Area News Group
"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 and Oil and Honey
"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
"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 and author of Rowing the Atlantic and Stop Drifting, Start Rowing
"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 and Breaking Trail
"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."
—Daniel Pauly, author of Five Easy Pieces
"A thrilling adventure tale, searing exposé, and moving memoir rolled into one. Ocean Country 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
"Wave after wave of gripping narrative—mysterious, funny, prophetic and profound—deftly delivers knowledge crucial to our times."
—Catherine Keller, author of Cloud of the Impossible and The Face of the Deep
"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. 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
“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
"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
"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."
—Norman MacLeod, author of The Great Extinctions
'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
"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 and coauthor 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 and author of Dire Predictions
"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 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
"If a pilgrimage is a transformative journey to a sacred place, which I believe it is, 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."
—Phil Cousineau, author of The Art of Pilgrimage
"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 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, coauthor of Ocean Worlds
"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. 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