A book outlining the harsh reality of our polluted and overfished seas isn't the first thing one thinks of when imagining a decorative coffee-table book, but Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them (Rodale Books, 320 pages, $32.50) is both of these things. Equally unexpected is the book's author, TV actor Ted Danson, who is best known for his starring role in the '80s sitcom Cheers. For years Danson has fought alongside activists pushing for healthier oceans. He currently plays opposite Jason Schwartzman and Zach Galifianakis in the HBO series Bored to Death, and in a lull between seasons he's taking his book around the country, raising awareness of the many traumas that plague the oceans.
These days we're used to receiving bad news about the environment, so it doesn't come as a shock to learn the oceans are in dire straits. Danson lays it out simply and helpfully. He talks about the recklessness of offshore drilling, the rising temperature and corrosive effect of the ocean's absorption of carbon dioxide from the air, and excessively destructive fishing practices like bottom trawling—which gathers 1 pound of marketable fish for every 16 pounds of organisms killed. He explains that where once many schools of varying fish species swam together, now colonies of jellyfish float about. These "slime banks" form in overfished areas, and since jellyfish feed on fish eggs, it is impossible for fish populations to make a comeback.
Danson doesn't preach, and the information isn't dry. The trendy data visualizations, crisp photographs and self-effacing tone make this a rather pleasant eye-opener—rather than a depressing excuse to head to your local version of Cheers.
GO: Ted Danson speaks at the Bagdad Theater, 702 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 236-9234. 7 pm Wednesday, March 23. $29.99, includes a copy of the book.