Book Review: Sea Sick: The Global Oceans in Crisis

Author: Alanna Mitchell
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart Ltd
Book Publication: 2014

I feel exceptionally privileged to have read Sea Sick by Alanna Mitchell and to have seen her one-woman play based on the book which premiered in Toronto in March 2014. Sea Sick is a beautifully written book by an author with the eyes of a scientist and the heart of an artist.

I picked up this book with the virtuous intention of finding out more about the ominous state of the world’s oceans.  To my delight, I was enchanted by the story of this curious and adventurous woman as she travelled the world on a quest to find out what is happening to our oceans and what it means to the future of mankind. This story, filled with beauty, intrigue, and horror will not let you easily put it down.

This is more a mystery novel than a scientific chronicle. In it, we follow the author as each scientist she visits builds a clearer picture of what mankind has done to the oceans, and she learns how it will affect us in the future and why we can expect disaster if we do not make some big changes.  Through Mitchell, we see both the beauty of our disappearing world and the damage humans have inflicted on it.

There is even a sex scene in which Mitchell recounts the spawning of the coral reefs in the Caribbean.  It involves a build-up of tension as she patiently waits, followed by great drama when she witnesses the rare event, followed by tragedy when you learn that due to the warming of the water only a quarter of the corals were able to spawn.

You will be surprised to discover the impact the oceans have on our lives as expressed in Mitchell’s words, “Every second breath we breathe comes from plankton.”

Learn how the temperature, the pH and oxygen levels of the ocean can have a great impact on our life. There are no quick fixes to our dilemma. Mitchell warns in Sea Sick, the Play, that human life along with other living species are in peril as “the oceans become too warm, breathless and sour.”

Sea Sick helps the reader to realize how sad it is that we blindly consume with little regard for the beautiful world our lives so perilously depend on. This book has helped me strengthen my commitment to live and work sustainably, to see beyond the air and land and embrace the sea as the foundation of life. It has deepened my understanding of my world and increased my resolve to protect it.

Reviewed by Jean Eng, co-founder of Pure+simple Spas,

For more information on Alanna go to her site at

Jean Eng is a valued Vitality contributor.

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