Blog Book Tour | “Reef Libre: An In-Depth Look at Cuban Exceptionalism” by Robert Wintner

Posted Tuesday, 17 November, 2015 by jorielov , , , 1 Comment

Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin.

Acquired Book By: I was selected to be a part of the blog tour for “Reef Libre” hosted by iRead Book Tours. I received a complimentary copy of the book and DVD (accompaniment to the book) direct from the publisher Taylor Trade Publishing in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Why the oceans have fascinated my mind:

I grew up surrounded by the oceans as my state is one of the Gulf States hugged so close to shoreline we’re perpetually below sea level; a fact that never shied me away from wondering which hurricane season might cause catastrophic destruction; not only to the humans who live within my state but to the ecological habitats who call this area home. There have been many disasters within the Gulf region since I was bourne and unfortunately they were not limited to mother nature. Each time something has happened to cause a disruption in the harmony of the natural world of my state and the surrounding ones, a part of my heart has been full of remorse and grief.

Mankind has not found kindness nor humility in understanding there are limits to what we can effectively do and what we can not undo due to our greed and our progression forward through industry. Too often the progress of mankind is placed first rather than taking into consideration the benefit of living in conjunction with the natural world; in this case, the oceans. The oceans were studied quite widely throughout my school years, but it wasn’t until 7th grade where I truly caught on to the specifics of weather patterns, wave formations, tidal histories and the incredible density of how large our oceans are whilst cross-compared to how much of the oceans have been mapped, researched and understood on even a basic level of insight. It’s truly our greatest ‘unknown’ frontier outside of Space.

I grew up going to the beach as oft as time would allow and part of my appeal of visiting those sandy shores were to feel the connection from the sand under my feet to the humming clarity of the waves. There is something altogether spiritual about walking the beach, acknowledging the shells and connecting to the lifeblood of what the oceans give us per annum. I originally felt I would grow up to be professionally connected to the oceans, as I explored different options from interspecies communications (i.e. dolphins or whales; similar scope to Zeus and Roxanne); dolphin research; Nautical Archaeology; Marine Biology or one of the many sub-fields therein that stimulated a personal curiosity to know more. I even yearned to get my PADI license until I realised that I appreciated being a bit more disconnected from this enveloping world of dark and light; of where the underwater ecology is as reverent as the one on the surface and mimics certain attributes therein.

I found that my greater passion was to become a writer whose stories would be soulfully connected to the ocean and allow me the chance through research to develop more knowledge than what I could have gained if I had selected only one field to pursue. I appreciate the freedom being a writer and photographer can yield, but also, it’s finding a way to give credence to an ecological living system that so many of this world take for granted. If non-fiction releases like Reef Libre and my own personal wanderings within fiction can shed a light on the beauty and the case for conservation with preservation forward thinking solutions, I think we have a chance to reset the balance we’ve destroyed.

Blog Book Tour | “Reef Libre: An In-Depth Look at Cuban Exceptionalism” by Robert WintnerReef Libre
Subtitle: Cuba: The Last, Best Reefs in the World. An in-depth look at Cuban Exceptionalism

Cuba reefs host apex predators and coral cover at optimal levels. While Cuban reef vitality may be linked to economic default and no shoreline development, no agricultural pesticides or fertilizers and limited human population growth, the Castro regime is aggressively developing its reef potential.

Seas to the south are now 100% shark protected.

Most Cuba travelogues advise “getting off the beaten path,” but Reef Libre examines that path, to see where it might lead as things change. Will Cuba reefs remain protected? Or is this perilous age of natural decline a last chance to see a healthy reef system?

Robert Wintner and the Snorkel Bob Jardines de la Reina Expedition herein provide narrative insight with photos and video. First stop is the baseline: Havana urban density. Down south at Cayo Largo, reef collapse seems imminent with 600 guests changing daily, and the phosphate-laden laundry water flowing directly to the deep blue sea. Will Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism step up with the Jardines de la Reina paradigm? Rising from the Golfo de Ana María, Jardines is a thousand square miles of mangrove estuary, for ages compromised by constant extraction of its biggest predators, taken as food. Protected, it now rises on the world reef stage.

A DVD comes with the book in a paper sleeve glued to the inside cover. Reef Libre, the movie, runs about an hour.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781630760731

on 1st February, 2015

Pages: 272

Available Formats: Hardback with the DVD

Published by: Taylor Trade Publishing

An imprint of Rowan & Littlefield (@RLPGBooks) known for their academic publications within the Humanities and Social Sciences. They also focus on Educational publications.

Converse via: #ReefLibre

About Robert Wintner

Robert Wintner

Best known as Snorkel Bob in Hawaii and around the world, Robert Wintner captures Cuba above and below the surface with urgency and hope. As a pioneer in fish portraiture, Wintner demonstrated social structure and etiquette in reef society. Reef Libre goes to political context, in which human folly will squander Cuba’s reefs as well—unless natural values can at last transcend political greed. As pundits joust over who did what to whom and why, Wintner ponders reef prospects in view of political changes.

Robert Wintner has authored many novels and story collections. Reef Libre is his fourth reef commentary with photos and his first overview of survival potential in a political maelstrom. He lives and works in Hawaii, still on the front lines of the campaign to stop the aquarium trade around the world.

My Review of Reef Libre:

I entered this beautiful masterpiece in oceanographic documentative science through the accompanying DVD wherein I felt my heart grew fuller in seeing the fish, reef and other occupants of the reef in Cuba living with the freedom of knowing they were safe, protected and guarded. What stood out to me instantly was the fact the sharks (and lateron, the saltwater crocs!) do not attack humans! I have long since been contemplating the attacks between sharks and humans; trying to noodle out a reason for them, as to me, they were never black and white. It was never a logical reason for them because I felt there was something quite deeper in depth behind those attacks – what was causing the sharks to fight and defend themselves and their natural territory? This is what came to mind and as I tossed around different ideas, I never would have stumbled across a truth I did not yet know until now: sharks patrol coral reefs!

Sharks are one of the most intelligent species we have underwater and they barely get credit for their intelligence much less their role in the underwater world. If what was being shared on the documentary holds salt, then the sharks who have become more predatory towards humans are honestly only attempting to communicate that (we) humans have taken a misstep in how we approach their living environ. We’ve breached the balance of where their world can thrive and grow in proportion to our presence which is affecting their survival. It’s not rocket science and yet perhaps it is?

Mankind has held such a high esteem of acquisition and growth of wealth, that our entire society (save the few who are mindful of living without taking away from what is innately not kosher) lives in a tidalwave of ‘me’. If someone wants something there is a way for them to acquire it, irregardless of the consequences that ‘purchase’ might make on ‘where’ the source of it came from. In this instance, how much is our consumption and need for acquisition of living organisms not of our surface and air environments but of the underwater sanctuaries going to erode our humanity for respecting all of us are interconnected to each other? What is it going to take to ‘wake up’ the mind, heart and soul of our conjoined humanity and recognise that the ocean thrives best when we give it the least interference possible? We’re meant to be guardians and protect the natural world; not to cause irreversible damage and destruction to the lives of those who do not have a voice to defend themselves.

This topic reminds me of how well in-tune I was with the fate of the Rain Forest and how the motion picture Medicine Man seen during my 5th grade year (as a ten year old budding environmentalist) set the stage for understanding the grievous errors of our progress. We don’t think about collateral cost to our consumption nor do we purport a methodology of preservation within the cycles of what we produce. We’re a very instant-gratifying society whose main goal is to live in the moment of ‘now’ and forsake the consequences of ‘tomorrow’. This isn’t the way to give the next generations any insight into a proper balance between man and nature, but it has become commonplace all the same.

On the beautiful high optic dimension of ‘seeing’ fish in a new light:

Wintner has truly blessed the reader and viewer with high optic dimensional insight into how fish and the culture of their habitats interact with each other on a daily basis. Through the documentary we find certain fish like to ‘zen out’ on their route through the reef whilst the sharks protectively patrol the length of the reef to make sure nothing runs amiss. I even appreciated finding they ‘pat down’ so to speak the divers, nudging them if they feel they need to remind them of whose ‘home’ their visiting and give a nod towards their duties as a whole.

The clarity of the images allow us to see what cannot be seen from shore or boat, the beauty of the markings on the fish and the small gestures of how even fish could talk if we could only understand their language. So often as the video feeds moved forward frame to frame, I felt heart-connected to this environment, as it’s a living ecosystem underwater – I even noticed ‘wind’ can be seen as certain underbrush of the reef let out their arms to embrace the undercurrents as if they are swaying in the breeze above the surface. Everything that you think you might find down there is pleasantly remastered by the reef inhabitants. You cannot quite fathom their world, you cannot imagine it, you must live it through the eyes of a documentary, a photographic journal (such as this book) or real-life experiences by visiting the reef yourself. Everything else would be a false positive of what could be found as dimensionally everything on the reef has a double purpose!

I’m a veghead in my soul – never attracted to meat, poultry, fish or anything outside of the seasonal offerings of fresh harvested off the farm vegetables intermixed with grains, greens and legumes. I might not currently have the chance to live 100% in harmony with my soul’s journey towards returning to a kinder way of eating but one thing is for certain: any chance of convincing me to eat fish or seafood in the future was shattered and spilt out of my compassion for the fish of the reef!

It began further back to be honest – watching cooking shows, who wants to eat crab when you realise what they do to kill the crab just for the luxury of it being on your plate? Don’t even get me started about the fate of the lobster! When I learnt the fuller history of Grouper every plausible reason to ‘eat’ this fish evaporated! I never knew what was happening to the Conch either – as I did appreciate eating conch fritters (in my lifetime of thirty-six years, perhaps three times I partaked in them?) but finding out how my naive and innocent mind thought they were harvesting them vs the realities of their murderous pursuit for quantity – wells, let’s just say the conch can live their lives without fear of this girl’s appreciation of their taste.

It’s more than having a farm to fork mentality, it’s about respecting there are certain things on this earth that are not meant to be caught, eaten or removed from their right to maintain their place in a living ecology that grants us the lifecycles we have all but erased from view.

On my growing remorse for human ignorance on the natural world:

Reading the pages inside Reef Libre dedicated to the marginalised shark whose fate has been endeavoured to be ‘at risk’ due to such a horridly writ film JAWS is beyond belief; as truly, when will we take stock of the fact a movie or a tv series is a work of FICTION? That what happens inside a moving picture is not a bonefide fact of life in the real world? Why would we fate the shark, a creature whose never asked for our engagement suddenly become the target of criticism and benevolence of hunters? I could say I never knew Hawaii whose as hugged close to the oceans as I am would be so blinded by their agendas that they did not protect their own; but it negates the point! Except to reconsider ever visiting the islands because my heart and soul are crushed simply knowing how indifferent they are to preserving what is currently dying under the strain of exploitation. In a small way, I always knew conservationists like Steve Irwin had a hard road to forge because convincing ‘us’ to protect the natural world is like walking on the sun without a solar flare suit to protect you against instant combustion!

How can you not feel compassionate about the ‘characters’ of this book?

Turn a page to any of the fish or sharks within Reef Libre and ask yourself what is your heart ‘hearing’ from that encounter? I think we’ve lost touch with our hearts and our inner spirit of truth – we know we’re meant to acknowledge wildlife with a protective arm of love and compassion, but how oft do people shrug off wildlife and the natural world? How many times have you heard someone say “it’s just a bird, it’s just a fish, – it’s just something that is not important to me”. I’ve run into this whilst I’ve walked in my natural environs (as mentioned on my review of Digital Nature Photography) and the hypocrisy truly sets my blood to boil!

These are living beings who have old souls – they’ve been around for generations far more connected to time and the genesis of the planet than humans have been alive. They understand things that our minds have not yet accepted nor have given credit to understand. They see things in clear distinctions of intention and respectfully know when they are being put at risk; for reasons I am sure they will never fully understand. They need our help and our intervention at times where to ignore their silent calls for help would be a greatest grievance on our own legacy of indifference.

It was of no shocked surprise of mine to learn a key benefit to the reefs is to restore the sharks to their patrols. They are there for a reason and just because man hadn’t yet realised what that reason was did not discredit their presence. Most of our ecological and environmental issues today have simple solutions. If you think about it, nearly everything that is going wrong has been at the hands of the Industrial Revolution which set a precept for future changes that would bargain the environment and the natural world in order to pursue commerce, trade and wealth. When will we stand united to seek a kinder way to approach our living ecosystems to where man is not destroying what has owned the land and seas, but rather has accepted that man’s presence within these habitats has to leave no trace of our visit? Give ourselves redemption of our ignorance through working in the future towards restoring the balance we never felt was important until the day it affected our own lives.

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One thing is quite certain:
we need to liberate our reefs!

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Reader Interactive Question:

I look forward to hearing your reactions if you’ve read this beautiful work of non-fiction OR have watched the documentary attached to it; and/or if your curiosity had become piqued to read it after reading my own ruminations! It’s such a brilliant find for conservation & preservation efforts!

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Sharing this post as part of my contribution on behalf of Sci Fi November because I am a science fiction writer who writes ‘SF based on science fact’ stories of whom are connected to oceanic life and ecosystems. I felt that since the oceans do play a role in the genre as a whole and inside new niche genres such as SolarPunk this would be a topic that would appeal to other readers of science fiction during the event.

Sci Fi November 2015 badge created by Jorie in Canva.

Sci-Fi Month 2015 is a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by Rinn Reads and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

{SOURCES: Cover art of “Reef Libre”, book synopsis, author photograph of Robert Wintner, author biography, and the quotation from the novel and the tour badge were all provided by iRead Book Tours and used with permission. Ruminations & Impressions Book Review Banner created by Jorie in Canva. Photo Credit: Unsplash Public Domain Photographer Sergey Zolkin. Comment Box Banner made by Jorie in Canva. Sci Fi November badge created by Jorie in Canva.} Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. The book trailer for “Reef Libre” the documentary was embedded due to codes provided by Vimeo.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2015.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Tuesday, 17 November, 2015 by jorielov in Aquaculture, Blog Tour Host, Bookish Discussions, Charity & Philanthropy, Climate Change, Conservation, Ecology, Education & Learning, Environmental Activism, Environmental Advocacy, Environmental Conscience, Environmental Science, Environmental Solutions, Indie Author, Life in Another Country, Marine Biology, Nature & Wildlife, Non-Fiction, Oceanography, Preservation, Science, Social Change, Sustainability & Ecological Preservation, The Natural World, Travel Narrative | Memoir, Travel Writing, Travelogue

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One response to “Blog Book Tour | “Reef Libre: An In-Depth Look at Cuban Exceptionalism” by Robert Wintner

  1. Thanks, Jori, for a great review and your undying love of reefs. I’m happy that you were able to get down and feel the magic. Reef around the world will vanish in our lifetime, or we can step up and speak out and take action to save them. As our 40th POTUS put it: Mr. Gorbechev, tear DOWN this aquarium!

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