Blue Machine by Helen Czerski [9/10]

Like most of us, my very awareness of the ocean is superficial and random. Only the growing realization that our oceans are crucial for how the global warming crisis pans out in the next decades and beyond, only some sense that “I need to understand,” sent me to “Blue Machine: How the Ocean Shapes Our World.” I am so, so glad I took that step and anyone with a science orientation needs to read it now. Helen Czerski is an oceanographer (and TV presenter) who brings her original occupation of physicist to bear upon her narrative, which constantly reinforces that our oceans (which, startlingly, hold 97-98% of our Earth’s water) are an energy “engine,” a slow-moving-but-dramatic-at-the-periphery liquid artifice driven by temperature, salinity, density, and atmospheric winds. The author is a highly imaginative narrator of enthusiastic stories stitching together her overall explanatory arc, tales that range across the ages, and, of course, all over the globe. Whenever she can, she situates herself into the story, and she never fails to trumpet the incredible glory and subtlety of the “blue machine.” Unlike many science writers, she is not afraid to delve into the technical details, especially of currents and salinity and density, and this led me to at last come to an understanding of those diagrams one sees of gyres swirling on spheres. Above all, Blue Machine is a plea to stop treating the seas as ultimate dumping grounds—of rubbish, of plastic, of fossil-fuel-driven errant heat—and to, instead, celebrate its glory within the precarious web of life.

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