A World Without Fish, and What You (and Your Kids) Can Do to Change That Good Books to Read: Mark Kurlansky's World Without Fish A World Without Fish, and What You (and Your Kids) Can Do to Change That Good Books to Read: Mark Kurlansky's World Without Fish
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A World Without Fish, and What You (and Your Kids) Can Do to Change That Good Books to Read: Mark Kurlansky's World Without Fish

by Peter Smith

April 18, 2011

Mark Kurlansky, the venerable chronicler of Cod, Salt, and The Last Fish Tale, clearly cares about fish and future generations of fish-eaters and fishermen. Indeed, the inspiration behind his newest book, the illustrated World Without Fish, is Kurlansky's 10-year old daughter Talia, who often doubles as his fishing companion. 

There's no doubt that oceanographic science deserves more attention, but what little silver lining there is here comes in a dark shade of gray. Chapter seven, for example, has has this hopeful title, "Being a detailed look at four possible solutions." But it's followed quickly by this bummer of a caveat: "They alone won't work."

Is this catastrophic message about our impact on the world too much, too soon? Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle, told ABC's "All in the Mind" that learning about eco-catastrophe could cause children "to associate nature with fear and destruction and the end," which "won't produce good conversationalists and environmentalists in the future."

So, in the end, the book's greatest strength is its greatest weakness; it provides a useful overview of the world's fisheries, but, being an overview, is also an over-simplification. Well-meaning consumers (themselves part of the problem, as Kurlansky wrote on The New York Times online) should pick up this book. "[I]f you are not careful you end up boycotting good sustainable fisheries and then these fishermen have no incentive to do it well. So before you do anything, try to understand what’s going on."

A World Without Fish, as sad and scary and heavy-handed as it is, may a good place to start—no matter how old you are.

Illustrations: Frank Stockton, courtesy of Workman Publishing

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A World Without Fish, and What You (and Your Kids) Can Do to Change That Good Books to Read: Mark Kurlansky's World Without Fish