Look on any conservationist’s bookshelf and you will see the names Thoreau, Carson, Leopold and Wilson.
Recently, another name has emerged — Safina — and for good reason. Quietly during the past decade Dr. Carl Safina, the founder and president of Blue Ocean Institute, has chronicled the decline of our fisheries and diversity of sea life in Song for the Blue Ocean, the improbable life histories of seabirds in Eye of the Albatross, and took us on an eye-widening tour of the world’s sea turtles in Voyage of the Turtle. His fourth book, The View from Lazy Point, is as advertised, a one-year natural history tour de force about the East End within a global context. Safina is the personification of an East Ender. He spent his youth fishing off Montauk, conducted his graduate work studying terns on Hicks Island, and presently lives in a cottage at Lazy Point in Amagansett. He tells us he’s been told the area is “named after baymen who’d come to squat on worthless land.”
Like previous works, The View from Lazy Point is a thorough and steady must read for anyone concerned with unprecedented changes occurring in our natural world. Again, much is put forth for the reader to take in and reflect upon. Human consequences and impacts on our environment, most notably wildlife, are a consistent theme in his writings. During his May chapter, Safina and a friend, Patricia, witness a bayman retrieving horseshoe crabs during their full moon egg-laying ritual, and mercilessly throwing them into the bed of a pickup truck – each making a tormenting thud. The crabs will be used for bait by local fishermen, but the negative impacts will be far-reaching. The red knot, a diminutive dove-sized shorebird that winters as far as the Tierra del Fuego in South America, depends on stopover sites like Lazy Point to rest and feed (you guessed it — on horseshoe crab eggs) before pushing further north to tundra breeding sites in Canada. A confrontation nearly ensues, as Patricia begins tossing the crabs from the shore to the bay to protect them from the bayman. Safina tells us that both are within their legal rights and thankfully cooler heads prevail. However, we’re reminded that the problem persists, as the current legal limit is an astonishing 500 horseshoe crabs per day per person!
At first it was off-putting to come across a chapter titled, “Travels Solar: Coral Gardens of Good and Evil – Belize and Bonaire”. What could the Caribbean have to do with the natural history stories unfolding at Lazy Point? Well, we soon encounter ruddy turnstones, roseate terns and osprey, all of which will pass through or spend the summer within close proximity of Lazy Point. These and other birds rely on the islands as stopover sites. Still, we’re here to learn about coral reefs and why they are dying. An increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) is to blame and is correlated to a rise in sea temperatures. Since the United States generates roughly 20 percent of the global CO2 emissions, this is in part a “local” problem having a global impact. Several other global trips are taken by Safina during the year to show that we are dealing with global problems (e.g. loss of Arctic seasonal sea ice in Svalbard) and bearing witness to some ecological successes (e.g. coral reef replenishment in the small Pacific island of Palau).
As we celebrate Earth Day on April 22, Safina is quite candid on it when he states, “It seems pathetic to mark just one day for, well, the whole world. It’s as if for most people, the planet is somehow out of context.” He’s absolutely right and the benign statement that, “everyday should be Earth Day” needs to have a deeper meaning and follow with more doing. Ironically, it was nearly one year ago, on Earth Day, that the Gulf oil spill began. Not surprisingly, Safina has chosen this as the topic of his next work entitled, A Sea in Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout, released on April 19.
Aaron Virgin is the vice president of .