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A Story of Revival

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Monterey Bay, a bay of the Pacific Ocean, is a real paradise, one of the unique world’s places where natural “delicate beauty” prevails (Palumbi & Sotka, 2010, p.143). It is along the central coast of California. Monterey Bay is home to many species of marine mammals, fish and mollusks: sea otters, harbor seals, bottlenose dolphins, elephant seals, sharks, abalones, and squids. There are a lot of birds, sea turtles and also several kinds of kelp in the bay. Monterey Bay is one of the richest and most famous marine environments all over the world. But only a few people know, that earlier Monterey Bay was a damaged ecosystem with many of its creatures been in sore need of help. The authors of the book “The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival” Stephen Palumbi and Carolyn Sotka found a way to communicate their idea and convey its meaning only in less than 200 pages.

“The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival” is both an environmental and a human story with inspirational characters, a truly tale about life, death, and revival of Monterey Bay. This is the history of the last 250 years of the Monterey Bay. This book began with its authors` research. Stephen R. Palumbi, the Director of the Hopkins Marine Station and the Harold A. Miller Professor of Marine Science at Stanford University and Carolyn Sotka, a Project Coordinator for Communication Partnerships for Science and the Sea, were interested in Bay`s nature years ago. They were surprised that Monterey Bay was a beautiful place, which seemed to avoid terrific interference of greedy people concerned with their profit only. As it turned out 80 years ago, Monterey suffered from many troubles, but motivated people saved it. “The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival” proves that only humanity is responsible for nature and people have a great power to influence it, destroy or revive. It is our choice only. That is exactly why the authors focused on humans and underlined that they can not only do harm, but take care of the natural values too.

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The book is divided into three parts: The Ruin, The Bottom and The Recovery from the worst to the condition of the Monterey Bay ecosystem to its recovery. The story of this place begins from its early discovery by Oholone tribe’s people through Spanish residency, in the late 1700s when French and English explorers thrived on selling sea otter skins to China. “Otter skin robbers” (Palumbi & Sotka, 2010, p.18) killed thousands of otters for their fur in order to turn a profit throwing prudence to the winds. By the 1840s, the population of otters was nearly killed off along California’s coast. Then whales came: from 1850 to about 1870, whale fishers annihilated hundreds of gray and humpback whales of California. Therefore, whales vanished from here too. The people were ruthless, nothing was left untouched. The disappearance of otters resulted in the absence of kelp. The kelp forests, which provided a home for many species of fish, collapsed, because without otters the red sea urchins and abalone grew in numbers and ate the kelp away. In the 1900s, the new canneries processing sardines were built here. Then “the market grew to supply World War I army rations, giving the new businesses in Monterey a leg up” (Palumbi & Sotka, 2010, p.70). It is widely known, fish canning is a dirty business — the waste of processing was thrown back into the ocean, polluting the water and air of Monterey Bay. Besides, fishermen ignored warnings about limitation of the sardine catch; this has resulted in the fish rundown. The catch levels reduced from 250,000 tons in 1941 to 26,000 tons in 1946 and 49 tons in 1953.

The second chapter of “The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival” is dedicated to such local denizens as Mayor Dr Julia Platt, Ed “Doc” Ricketts and the foursome attracted to the fate of Monterey: Chuck Baxter, Steve Webster and Nancy and Robin Burnett. The authors use the stories of their work to illustrate condition of the Monterey Bay ecosystem. Therefore, the reader is introduced to the scientific descriptions and explanations in the nonscientific language. The character of Dr. Julia Platt is the bright spot and the icing on the cake of the book. She is the main character appealed to educate and to encourage people. Palumbi and Sotka (2010) admire her, “Julia Platt was a tall, 42-year-old woman who favored long purple velvet dresses, often highlighted with a blue sunbonnet and yellow gauntlet” (p.57). It is noteworthy, the word “purple” is used in text for sea urchins (Palumbi & Sotka, 2010) and that gives rise to a suggestion that the authors compare her with sea inhabitant in order to describe her as a reflection of sea animals’ survival. She loved the ocean, protected it, fought against the canneries and assert right to beach access, declaring, “I act in the matter because the Council and Police Department of Paci%uFB01c Grove are men and possibly somewhat timid” (Palumbi & Sotka, 2010, p.66). In 1931, she ran for mayor of Pacific Grove. After she won office, she made Pacific Grove the only city with title to its waterfront and “certain submerged lands in the Bay of Monterey contiguous thereto” (Palumbi & Sotka, 2010, p.191). She reached the right Pacific Grove to manage the coastline (Bergeron, 2010). She got rid of the canneries and created two marine refuges along the coast. The marine life was protected by these refuges. Julia with her colorful style of dress gives readers hope and self-confidence. Platt, earned a doctorate in zoology in Europe in 1898, forbade fishing catch on the territory of the Hopkins Marine Life Refuge. Platt did not live to see her success, but the situation started to improve in 1962, when sea otters returned to Monterey Bay. She set seeds that would later be sprouted into the revival of Monterey Bay.

Another important participant of Monterey Bay’s rescue was Ed "Doc" Ricketts, a marine biologist named in John Steinbeck's novel Cannery Row. This novel also drew attention to the distress of Monterey Bay. Ed Ricketts developed some key ideas concerning the ecology of Monterey Bay (Bergeron, 2010).

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The last part of the book tells about the creation of Monterey Bay Aquarium, recent history, and future prospects and hopes. As a contemporary marine ecologist, Palumbi shares his knowledge about marine inhabitants. This chapter is the most informative, especially for nonscientists. Monterey Bay has become one of the most popular tourist destinations, famous for its picturesque coastlines and rich aquarium. The community realized that people can also make money using the natural beauty. Generally speaking, tourism sustains the economy; therefore, citizens sustain their environment. It is a balance that can be promoted everywhere. The authors tell about the today’s Monterey with pleasure, they are pleased with human activity. They write the following, “At the same time that the ecological diversity and health of Monterey Bay have returned to the highest levels of a century, the economic diversity of the human community of Monterey also remains high” (Palumbi & Sotka, 2010, p.167). The people could find a reasonable way to use the marine wealth. A substantial contribution to the restoration of the bay ($50 million investment) was made by the Hewlett-Packard family poured into the creation of the Monterey Bay Aquarium (Jenkins, 2011). Monterey Bay Aquarium is considered to be one of the most important aquariums for marine research all over the world. The aquarium team pursues the educational, scientific and financial aims. The aquarium team demonstrated that the bay's flora and fauna is more valuable alive than dead.

Conceptually, “The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival” is a solid work, which improves knowledge and makes the actual ecological problems on mind. The authors write, “In the bay, it is the ebb and flow of human action that sets the cycle of ecological health. ... It is the duty of those of us swaying to these cycles to learn the lesson of this recovery, celebrate it here, and create it elsewhere” (Palumbi & Sotka, 2010, p.173). People can draw some lessons of the tale. The first lesson is the interaction of all creatures on the Earth: the ruin spreads from one species to another. The story of Monterey Bay teaches us: nothing is endless. The second important lesson is the duty of every person to take care of nature. Even one man can change the situation. Humans live on this planet and must be partial to their home.

Reading “The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival” was really delightful for me, it is real optimistic tale of death and rebirth of one of the Earth's natural wonders. I really learnt a lot of new things from this book about marine life, changed my view of environmental value and thought about the future of our planet. It stands to mention the typography of the book: it is a slender volume, easy to pick up and set aside. The narrative style makes the information accessible. On the downside, notation for the endnotes is poorly adapted for use; the reader has to flip to the end of the book to check for endnotes. However, the delightful drawings to open each chapter made by Palumbi’s daughter, Lauren really satisfy and entertain (Jenkins, 2011). In addition, a very interesting narrative and the beautiful historical portraits, lithographs and color photographs of wildlife found in Monterey Bay attract the audience and make readers feel themselves closer to magnificent natural wonder and take part in the Bay`s life. Obviously, “The Death and Life of Monterey Bay” is worth to read, it would be even strongly recommended to read obligatory, because of its importance for the future human being.


“The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival” by Stephen Palumbi and Carolyn Sotka is a fascinating book, the story about the relationship and interaction between the nature of Monterey Bay and the people inhabiting the shoreline. It is an exciting tale of “the ecological tapestry” of Monterey Bay written by professional ecologists in a simple style for the general reader (Palumbi & Sotka, 2010, p.143). In contrast with other books on the same topic “The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival” has the happy ending. It is pleasant to realize that everything is not los yet.  The book has scientific, historical and educational value. Due to this socio-ecologic story, people have to feel the importance of their being and activities. There were both villains and heroes in “The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival”. Some of them first despoiled this picturesque piece of central California coastline; others helped it to recover and to avoid the total disappearing. This book demonstrates that sometimes ecosystems can get over from years of harm and indifference, it reminds about the real value of healthy nature and natural resources and the real potential of people`s force. The narrative tells what every one of us can do for our planet. It shows that our future depends on us. This heartening story is a universal lesson for any environment. The nature of the Earth is a reflection of human`s activity. It is frail in the teeth of human greed, but strong with human care.On the whole, «The Death and Life of Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival” is at once an optimistic story of recovery and a powerful warning against the dangers of human excess.

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