Jeremy B.C. Jackson has studied tropical ecosystems since the 1960s. He is the Ritter Professor of Oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and senior scientist emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution.
As recently as the 1950s, very smart people like Rachel Carson and Jacques Cousteau believed the oceans were so vast that fish stocks and the ocean's capacity to absorb human wastes were for all practical purposes unlimited. In reality, though, overfishing and degradation of water quality had long been apparent in places like the North Sea and New England. But no one took the problems seriously until the collapse of the legendarily abundant Newfoundland cod fisheries in 1992. The news has been unrelentingly bad ever since. Unfettered exploitation, pollution, and now climate change have brought entire ocean ecosystems to the brink of extinction, and we are left scrambling to figure out what to do.