In this gorgeously illustrated volume, the authors show how water has shaped the planet, with stunning aerial views of the meander bends the Colorado River has carved through rock, and of the scars – shaped oddly like leaf prints – that ancient water left in Australia’s Simpson Desert. There’s a vertigo-inducing shot of the North Pole’s Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden glacier, and a view of the lagoon of Tongareva, protected by an atoll elevated only a few feet above sea level, that seems an image of a world turned upside down, or as if this were the point where the planet curves.
Alongside these images, and more, are essays from renowned ecologists, oceanographers, marine biologists and geographers, each offering food for thought. It’s often been observed that water may well be the root cause of future conflict; for the time being, it can seem that humans are waging a war on water itself. One hundred years was all it took to alter our planet irrecoverably: the ecological consequences of the invention of plastic include the 140 million tons of the stuff currently polluting our oceans, a haul that’s increasing at a rate of ten million tons per year. Meanwhile, coral reefs are dying at ever-greater speed, stressed by rising temperatures. What’s painful to see is the way pollution can be beautiful: the quantities of crude oil released by the Deepwater Horizon explosion painted the sea extraordinary colours even as it was killing it. This book is both timely and finely produced.