BREN SMITH, MURDOCH BOOKS, P/B, $32.99
I approached this poacher-turned-gamekeeper ecological manifesto with something of a heavy heart: I expected it to be informative, earnest and chastening; I wasn’t expecting it to be a redemption memoir that’s laugh-out-loud funny in parts. Yes, Smith is an evangelist for new sea farming practices, but he knows how to tell a good yarn that’s powerfully delivered without ever sounding preachy. It’s a swaggering tale of a Newfoundland kid who dropped out of high school and headed out to sea working on factory trawlers fishing illegally at night in protected waters. When the destruction became too much to bear, and as fish stocks collapsed and fishermen found themselves out of work, he searched for a way in which he could stay connected to the sea in a sustainable way, eventually settling on growing seaweed and shellfish. These zero-input crops require no fertiliser, feed, land or freshwater; they absorb carbon and nitrogen to restore the health of the ocean. As Smith established his own small farm he began spreading the word and helping others to set up their own ventures, create new jobs in coastal communities and address the perils of climate change.