Sea Sick

Journalist Alanna Mitchell's journey into global ocean crisis sails onto centre stage


“If all life on land were to vanish tomorrow, creatures in the ocean would flourish. But if the opposite happened and the ocean’s life perished, the creatures on land would die, too.”

That’s how investigative science journalist Alanna Mitchell kicks off her award-winning book Sea Sick: The Global Ocean In Crisis, which chronicles her adventures investigating the state of the seas.

Astonishingly, her 2009 award-winning book was the very first to pull together the myriad signs of trouble in the deep. She may be the first journalist to make a play about it, too. Her one-woman show hits the Theatre Centre March 19 to 23.

In it, Mitchell recounts some of her travels diving into the abyss, connecting the underwater dots, uncovering the depths of how humans are messing with and profoundly altering the ocean. Ecoholic chats with her about her journey from sea to stage.

As a writer/journalist, how terrifying was it to step away from the computer to tell your story as a performer?

Absolutely gut-wrenching. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It surpasses swimming with piranhas in a tributary of the Amazon River, climbing a mountain with a badly sprained ankle, enduring the cold of Antarctica, even going to the bottom of the ocean in a submersible.

We tend to think of art and science as different fields. What’s the value in marrying the two?

My experience is that science is really great at finding out things but not very good at explaining why they matter. Art is good at conveying meaning. I think at this point in the planet’s trajectory, we need the solid information of science, but we need art to tell us why we should care.

You say the play helped you “dig even deeper” than you did in your books. How so?

It helped me discover why I do some of the things I do. It was like peeling back all the layers of my decisions over my 25 years as a journalist, forcing me to think about all the things I care about: art, science, journalism, the future of our planet.

Sea Sick, the book, was written over five years ago. How is the ocean doing today?

It’s worse. We’re putting much more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at a faster pace.

Do you have any hope that we’re going to save the ocean and planet from collapsing?

What’s at stake is human civilization. Certainly a lot of other species as well. But I still think we have time to pull back from the brink. Not a lot of time. But a little.

Your book calls for heroes. What should Canadians be doing to step up and contribute?

My goal in all this is simply to let people know what’s happening and to help them understand what it means. After that, it’s up to them.

ecoholic@nowtoronto.com | @ecoholicnation

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