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A brand new blog by Doug Abrams

With my book coming out in the Greek edition, Giannis Triantafillou, a journalist for Eleftherotipia, one of the highest selling greek newspapers, asked me for an interview.  It's been such a wonderful journey to connect with people all around the world about this project.  The interview is below:

1) Why and how did you decide to write a book with this subject?  

I write my novels because I have a question to which I desperately need to know the answer.  One cold winter day I was sitting with my twin daughters by the fireplace when we heard about the whale swimming up the Thames.  We were hearing about multiple whales that were "going astray."  A friend who is a scientist was visiting who was telling me about a new threat to our children, and I asked myself the question that launched the novel: could there be a connection between what was happening on land and what was happening in the sea.  I had no idea then how true profound the connection would be.  I also wanted to know whether we could save ourselves and was their something in the human heart stronger than ignorance, fear, and greed.  I got my answer--from the scientists I worked with on the novel--there is something stronger than these and it is our greatest hope.

2) Have you ever heard the whale's song? Is it a song of communication, a song that expresses feelings etc? 

I have had the joy and privilege of swimming with whales and recording their song and behavior.  I worked with many of the world's leading marine biologists and whale experts on the novel.  There are many theories about the meaning of the song, but it certainly can communicate or express feeling.  They may even have different kinds of songs.  We do know that they are structured like our songs and evolve over time, as male singers sing together and improvise changes.  While I was working on the novel they also discovered social sounds--the words that are used for communication--in the songs.  
 
3) Is the whale a creature of high intelligence?

We don't know how intelligent whales are but we do know that they have spindle cell neurons, which are the cells in humans that allow for culture and language, and we are pretty sure that they have both of these as well.
 
4) Which level has todays whale fishing reached ( and the one of other sea species )? Why and where does it lead mathematically?

Thanks to the ban on commercial whaling, many whale populations have been coming back but far below their historical numbers, and still countries like Japan, Norway, and Iceland take thousands of fish, often under supposed research.  Yet, the meat ends up in sushi restaurants in Tokyo.  Now the Japanese and their supporters are trying to turn over the ban on commercial whaling.  The struggle to save the whales is not over yet.  They also face many other dangers.  Pollution is the newest and most deadly harpoon, but it is a danger that attacks humans as well as whales.

5) Yesterday a whale almost attacked a ship.  Which is your comment? Is it possible that one day the sea creatures will 'return' to humans their unacceptable behaviour? 

I think it was probably very unlikely that the whale attacked the boat.  The boat may have simply gotten in the way of a whale breaching, which is part of its normal behavior.  It is true that like any animal, including humans, different individuals have different temperaments, so some may be more aggressive than others.  When I was in the water with the whales, a 50,000 pound male escort whale came over to look at me eyeball-to-eyeball, and then raised his enormous pectoral fin gently over my body to avoid hurting me.  Down here in Mexico, where I am at the moment, we see grey whales that would often fight back when they were being slaughtered bring their babies up to introduce them to humans and let us touch them.  These whales live a very long time, so some may have seen the whaling, and may have now concluded that we are safe.  
 
6) Was Melville's "Moby Dick" an inspiration for you and in what way?

Of course Moby Dick is a great classic, and was an inspiration in many ways, especially in his Melville's skillful rendering of villains--villains are very important because a hero is only as strong as the forces of opposition he or she faces.  In this novel, however, the whale is not the villain.  "Eco-thrillers"--stories about humans versus nature are as old as the Greek myths and the human imagination itself.  While in the past these stories primarily showed humanity was at the mercy of nature, today our stories remind us that increasingly nature is at the mercy of humanity.

7) Can you comment about the ecological catastrophy because of BP's careless actions?

I will be giving a talk shortly with the man who was responsible for cleaning up the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, another great environmental catastrophe, and he has been very active in the Gulf tragedy.  The important thing to keep in mind is that the Deepwater rig was not some out-of-date equipment.  It was the cutting edge of our technology.  This is a terrible example of spills that happen all around the world.  What we must remember is that whether the spill is in the Gulf or the North Sea or the Mediterranean, there is only One Ocean.  All water on the planet is connected, and we risk destroying this water with the petrochemical civilization we have created.  We must find alternatives, and we can.
 
8) Do you share the view that in the near future it could be the ecological problems that will 'throw' or 'rise' governments in most of the countries?  

I think Europe is already beginning to see how much people care about the earth that is our home.  I do believe that as people realize and start to experience the dangers personally and societally, they will demand that their politicians face the problems, or lose their power.  We are not talking about the environment, we are talking about our oikos--our home.  If we love our homes, our children, we must realize that all life is connected and protect it.   
 

 


Grant Offered to Develop Eye of the Whale as Outreach Tool

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I can’t believe that the novel has already been out for a year and that the paperback will be out at the end of September. The whole experience of researching and writing the book—learning about the dangers to all life, right along with my characters—has been quite an adventure. I have also been honored to speak at conferences in Mexico and the Netherlands and be on the NPR radio programs "Forum" and "Here and Now." 
 
I am so excited to able to share with you that I have recently been offered a matching grant of $25,000 from a foundation to develop an educational outreach campaign using Eye of the Whale as the main outreach tool.  I am hoping to raise funds from devoted readers to match this grant and support educational talks.  Asking for money is always something that is uncomfortable, especially when it is my joy to give to my readers rather than to ask for their help.  I hope you will see this as an opportunity to join with me, and others in the environmental movement, who care about the health of our water and our children.
 
The Ocean Foundation is administering the grant and has set up a donation page on their website.  You may donate any amount you wish—small or large—on this page:https://oceanfdn.org/index.php?ht=d/MakeDonation/donationtype/3987
 
I want to say Thank You again, not just for reading my books, but for everything you do to help make the world a healthier, wiser, and more sustainable place for future generations!

Eye of the Whale has been published in Greece!

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Here is the cover of the Greek edition!  While I've been enjoying a wonderfully rejuvenating and relaxing time with my family in Mexico for the last three weeks, my publisher in Greece has been busily getting the book to print.  It is a  great joy for the book to come out in Greece, a country that has always known the power and importance of the sea and has always cherished its inhabitants, including the delphinus.  When I told one of my twin daughters about the book being published in Greece, she said "Daddy, please take me with you to Greece.  It is my dream to go to Greece."  She is a Greek history and myth fan, and spent most of the day in the British Museum recently drinking up all of the Greek artifacts.  She is eleven.  I have also been to Greece and love it very much.  I even thought of setting one of my books in Greece.  Perhaps another. 

Giannis Triantafillou, a journalist for the Eleftheroptipia, one of the highest selling greek newspapers, interviewed me about the novel.  It's an honor to have been interviewed by a journalist who has interviewed the likes of Noam Chomsky and Kurt Vonnegut among many others.



World Oceans Day--There is Only One Ocean

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World Oceans Day--The Deepwater Disaster should help us all to see the fragility of the oceans and that our oceans everywhere are in peril from our environmental decisions.  The petrochemical civilization we have created is not just destroying the oceans with crude oil spills and ocean acidification through global warming, but also as a result of chemical pollution throughout the entire marine food web.  Killer whales off the coast of California have incredibly high concentrations of fire retardant chemicals and beluga whales in the remote Hudson Bay are so filled with industrial chemicals that when there bodies wash up dead they must be treated like toxic waste.  It is no surprise that we are finding these same chemicals in women's breast milk and in our newborn children.  We are the sea.  We are all dependent on the 70% of the world that is water and our bodies are made of water--66%.  What we do to water, what we do to the oceans we ultimately do to ourselves.  The oil spill will work its way into all life on the planet because the currents and tides spread pollution everywhere.  What we so often forget is that despite our maps, there really is only one ocean.  What happened in the Gulf of Mexico is coming to water near you.  We must heal our worldwide ocean and its collapsing ecosystems now to preserve the future of life on our planet.

Maria is a dear friend and colleague, so I was inclined to like her book, but I had no idea how powerful and important it would be.  Maria's family helped pioneer organic farming in America and have done as much as anyone to develop sustainable agriculture through the research farm as well as their book and magazine company.  So it's no surprise that she is an avid gardener and lover of the land, but Maria has taken the struggle to develop a life-sustaining relationship with the land to a whole new level by showing us how organic farming not only stops us from poisoning ourselves to death but also helps to reduce global warming.  Truly this book shows us how our extraordinary discovery and wanton use of petrochemicals are threatening our existence at both the micro and macro level.  Read this book for yourself, for you children, and for the future.

Help Save Devan's Life

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I wrote Eye of the Whale because several of my friends children were being born with birth defects and being diagnosed with cancer.  I wanted to know what was happening to our children and why there was such an increase in childhood cancer (a 26% increase between 1973 and 1999 and a 61% in crease in acute childhood lymphocytic leukemia).  One of the children that inspired this book and that was a constant companion as I was writing was Devan Tatlow.  Devan was diagnosed with leukemia and has recently relapsed.  He needs to have a bone marrow transplant and because of his unusual Indian and Caucasian heritage, he is very hard to match.  You could be the one to save Devan's life or know someone who could.  Please go to www.matchdevan.com and register for the bone marrow bank to save Devan's life and that of so many others.

The New Harpoon

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What does garbage in whales have to do with our children's health?

A gray whale that washed up in Seattle had garbage in its stomach ranging from sweat pants to plastic bags to surgical gloves to a golf ball.  Is this just a bizarre symptom of a dirty planet?  It is bizarre but unfortunately not uncommon, and it actually speaks to a much more serious problem in our oceans and in all life, including our children.  Pollution is the new harpoon that is increasingly killing whales as well as other ocean-dependent life.  Many seabirds are literally starving because their stomachs are so full of plastic.  But it's not really the sweat pants, the plastic bags, and golf balls showing up in stomachs that is the greatest danger.  It is really what they represent: a world awash with "persistant organic pollutants."  In short, it's not the big stuff, it's the little stuff, the microscopic stuff.  Beluga whales in the remote Hudson Bay are so filled with industrial chemicals, including plasticizers, that they must be treated like toxic waste when their dead bodies wash up on shore.  The Canadian government requires a special permit to transport their bodies across provincial lines.  But these problems are not just affecting whales and other marine life.  They are also affecting our children.  A recent study of newborn babies' cord blood discovered 413 toxic industrial chemicals in their bodies and on average over 200 chemicals per child.  This is before the first breath or the first sip or their first bite of food.  Our children, in short, are being born pre-polluted.  Pollution is the new harpoon, but this harpoon does not just threaten whales.

Off to the Netherlands and Mexico

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I will be reading/speaking in April at the Wetsus Conference in the The Netherlands about Eye of the Whale.  The conference is a gathering of about 120 people from fourteen universities and eighty companies in Europe who are all working on ensuring sustainable water for our world.  It is a great privilege to speak to this extraordinary group of scientists.  Next stop is Cancun, Mexico to address a conference being held by the great international non-profit, The Ocean Conservancy.  I'll be speaking to there international coordinators who are organizing the cleaning up of the beaches all around the world and preventing an enormous about of waste and pollution from ending up in the ocean.  

 These trips will be even more fun because one of my twin daughters, Kayla, will be coming with me to Europe and my wife, Rachel, will be coming to Mexico.  

 All work and no play makes Doug... 


Eye of the Whale to be published in...

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It's probably one of the most thrilling experiences as a writer: to see ones words translated into a foreign language.  So far Eye of the Whale has been translated into Swedish, Greek, Chinese, Arabic, and now Dutch.  Thank you to all my foreign publishers and to readers around the world!

Best Author in Santa Cruz?

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I was honored to win the reader award for best author in Santa Cruz by the Santa Cruz Metro.  While I appreciate the votes by readers, I must say that there are many great writers in our fair city (Laurie King and Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston among others).  In truth, it's probably not possible to pick best writers and best books, since what people enjoy reading is so deeply personal and varied.  So thank you all and let's celebrate all writers who pour their heart into their work.

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