A moving story by Julie Berwald which intertwines a personal drama with the global crisis of coral conservation
Life on the Rocks, is a powerful polemic calling for action to protect and care for our oceans. The focus is on coral reefs, but Berwald takes an unusual tack. While having a rigorously researched factual backbone, she tells this story in a compelling personal narrative that interweaves her journey of understanding the complexities of coral reef conservation with the trauma of coping with her teenage daughter’s struggle with overwhelming anxiety and OCD.
Much to my initial scepticism and surprise, I soon found the device profoundly effective. Grounding the book in such a raw experience, combining the personal and the political, revealing the mind-boggling struggle to understand such complex, unrelated problems, makes this read vital and powerfully immediate.
A scientist herself, and the author of Spineless, a truly great book about jellyfish, Berwald is particularly good at bringing to life the at times hard slog and the sheer grind of working out what is going on in the real world of conservation work and marine research. She takes us on a journey to projects in Florida, Sulawesi, Bali and the Dominican Republic. We meet the scientists who are so desperately trying to save our reefs, and we share their struggles and successes. She takes us to worthy conferences and we hear from aquarists, coral collectors, climate scientists, geneticists and many others. We dive in barren marine wastelands and explore pristine reefs.
The book is worth reading just to discover that the Mars corporation of chocolate-bar fame is not only a fab and decent employer but also funds what is one of the biggest coral reef restoration projects on the planet, in Sulawesi – it has planted more than 280,000 corals covering nearly ten acres of now-growing reef.
All in all, this is a fascinating read, which anyone who cares about coral reefs should relish.
Life on the Rocks by Juli Berwald, Bantam, £23.99
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