Simon Winchester argues that our destiny will be dictated by the Pacific’s vast expanses

Will the Pacific save us? In his biography of an ocean, Simon Winchester finds an optimistic note among all the doom we humans trail in our wake. This enormous body of water, which covers roughly a third of the planet’s surface, has become a cistern for our western sins. We have raided its indigenous peoples and animals; our world wars and nuclear tests have contaminated its islands and seas. How does it repay us? By absorbing the heat caused by our excessive burning of fossil fuels, acting as a “gigantic safety valve” to global warming. Archipelagos may be overwhelmed and coral reefs die, but in the end, Winchester intimates, the Earth will survive because of “the dominant entity on the planet” – all 64 million square miles of it.

As a companion to his magisterial Atlantic, Winchester’s Pacific is an equally digressive book, worthy of Herman Melville, and full of wondrous anecdotes that would fuel an entire series of QI. Sikh guards were employed by the British to guard their colonial armouries because their religion forbade smoking. Newly discovered deep-sea vents, where life itself may have begun, recycle all of the planet’s oceanic water every 10 years. All of the continents could fit into this one ocean.

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Source: Guardian Environment