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Dr Alistair Brown
Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Alanna Mitchell, Seasick: The Hidden Ecological Crisis of the Global Ocean


Seasick is a valuable book which draws attention to one of the most important but least understood factors in climate change: the ocean.

This review was first published in Green World magazine.


The iconography of climate change is big: drifting smog clouds, melting glaciers, lumbering polar bears. But, for Alanna Mitchell, it is the little things that matter most: algae, shrimp, coral, plankton. These are the small heroes of the world's largest ecosystem, the ocean, and will be its first climate change victims. Comprising 99% of the planet's living space and home to half its biomass, the ocean is central to life. But, oddly, the science of oceans has been largely overlooked on the international agenda. Isolated scientists monitor fish stocks or reef loss or alkalinity, but few put the holistic picture together. If Mitchell is right, then the net she has sewn in this book, connecting disparate scientists and compiling isolated strands of evidence, is an important one.

She captures the drama of the laboratory and the passions of individuals, but (apart from a few grating descriptions of sunsets) is focused on the core science. She uses the metaphor of the human body, a homeostatic system with a narrow tolerance for PH or temperature, to convey her message. Yet the need for this metaphor illustrates the problem with the science and (no blame to Mitchell) with this book. There is simply so much data with so many local variations that what is needed is one succinct image that will raise the vitality of the ocean in the public consciousness.

Unfortunately, unlike cuddly polar bears, it is hard to feel empathy with microscopic plankton, though producers of half the world's oxygen, or humble coccolinths, which sequester carbon in their fragile shells.

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This page was published on May 17, 2009 | Keywords: Seasick, Alann Mitchell, climate change, global warming

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