Kennedy Warne

Kennedy Warne

Kennedy Warne co-founded New Zealand Geographic magazine in 1988, and served as the magazine?s editor until 2004, when he relinquished the editorship in order to pursue his own writing and photography.He has written for National Geographic, Smithsonian, Canadian Geographic, GEO and various travel publications, and continues to contribute regularly to New Zealand Geographic. He writes mostly about natural history subjects, and specializes in underwater assignments. His work for National Geographic has taken him from the sea ice of the Gulf of St Lawrence to the mangrove swamps of Bangladesh; from the rainforests of Fiordland to the kelp forests of Cape Town.His book Roads Less Travelled: Twenty Years of Exploration with New Zealand Geographic is published by Penguin (NZ) in September 2008. He lives in Auckland.
Great books to give this holiday season from Island Press

2017 Holiday Gift Guide

This holiday season, consider the Icelandic tradition of gifting books. They don't go bad, are one-size-fits-all,...

This holiday season, consider the Icelandic tradition of gifting books. They don't go bad, are one-size-fits-all, and are sure to make anyone on your shopping list smile.With a library of more than 1,000 books, make Island Press your one-stop shop for book buying, so you can get back to enjoying the holidays. To help you out, we've compiled a list of staff selections and mentions on various best-of lists. 

Get any of these books at your favorite neighborhood bookstore or online retailer!


For the health nut in your life – Whitewash

Let me just say I am unequivocally a health nut; I am definitely that friend who will straight up say “you so should not eat, it is so unhealthy for you.” So If you have a friend or family member that is kind of like me and cares about the kind of food and chemicals they put in their body; Carey Gillam Whitewash is the book to have!  This riveting number exposes just how far one company is willing to go to line their pockets while showing total disregard for public health and safety. You think you know what is being sprayed on your food, well this book is here to say think again!

Whitewash is aslo one of Civil Eats' Favorite Food and Farming Books of 2017


For the Lego lover in your life – Design for Good

What good is building something if it doesn’t help the people it’s build for? In John Cary’s Design for Good, readers are presented with colorful, character-driven stories about project around that are designed with dignity in mind. Did we mention it also contains a ton of drool-worthy photos of architecture?

Design for Good is aslo featured on the San Francisco Chronicle's 2017 holiday books gift guide. Check it out!


For the peacekeeper in your life – The Spirit of Dialogue

Know someone who always serves as the conflict resolver for your friends or family? Give them some new ideas of masterful mediation with The Spirit of Dialogue which draws lessons from a diversity of faith traditions to transform conflict. Whether atheist or fundamentalist, Muslim or Jewish, Quaker or Hindu, any reader involved in difficult dialogue will find concrete steps towards meeting of souls. 


For the history buff in your life – Toms River

Toms River recounts the sixty-year saga that plagued this small New Jersey town. Your history-loving friend will meet industrial polluters and the government regulators who enabled them, the pioneering scientists who first identified pollutants as a cause of cancer, and the brave individuals who fought for justice. Longtime journalist Dan Fagin won the Pulitzer Prize for this page-turner, and gives us all a reason to think twice about what’s lurking in the water.


For the person in your life who thinks the environmental movement is made up of white outdoorsmen (or for the person in your life who thinks that the environmental movements doesn’t include them) – Energy Democracy

Energy Democracy frames the international struggle of working people, low-income communities, and communities of color to take control of energy resources from the energy establishment and use those resources to empower their communities—literally providing energy, economically, and politically. The diverse voices in this book show that the global fight to save the planet—to conserve and restore our natural resources to be life-sustaining—must fully engage community residents and must change the larger economy to be sustainable, democratic, and just.


For the lazy environmentalist in your life – Design Professionals Guide to Zero-Net Energy Building

We all know someone who really means well and cares about the environment, but cannot be bothered to change his lifestyle. With the Design Professionals Guide to Zero-Net Energy Building, you can introduce the zero-net energy building, which offers a practical and cost-effective way to address climate change without compromising quality of life.


For the foodie in your life – No One Eats Alone

For your favorite gourmand, give the gift of No One Eats Alone, an exploration of how to deepen connections to our food sources and to our own communities. Through over 250 interviews, Michael Carolan shows concerned food citizens opportunities for creating a more equitable and sustainable foodscape


For the conservation warrior in your life – Nature’s Allies

Worried about the state of nature in our divided world? Or know someone who is? Nature’s Allies is a refreshing antidote to helplessness and inertia. Within its pages Larry Nielsen brings alive stories of brave men and women around the world who have responded to the conservation crises of their time by risking their reputations, well-being, and even lives to stand up for nature when no one else would do so. These stories provide inspiration for a new generation of conservationists to step up in the face of adversity and challenge social and environmental injustice occurring today—and to assure them that they can make a difference by speaking out. This year, give a holiday gift of courage and inspiration: Nature’s Allies.



For the traveler in your life – Let Them Eat Shrimp

This book brings to life the importance of mangroves. Mangroves have many jobs: protecting coastlines, acting as nurseries for all kinds of fish, provide livlihoods and food for people. Kennedy Warne dives into the muddy waters of the mangrove world and shares the stories of the people who depend on them. The book is both a well-written travelogue and exploration of the science of the mangroves ecological service they provide.

Don't just take our word for it, check out these best-of lists:


For the nature-in-cities lover in your life – Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design

Featured on the ASLA's The Dirt Best Books of 2017


For the bike lover in your life – Bike Boom

One of Planetizen's Best Books of 2017 and one of the four books in Bicycle Times' Gift Guide Cycling Enthusiast


Photo Credit: Shrimp farming in Aceh, Indonesia. Photo by Mike Lusmore/Duckrabbit, 2012 via user WorldFish

‘Waiter, there’s blood in my appetizer’

The closing of a loophole in a venerable tariff act that allowed goods derived from slave labor to enter the...

The closing of a loophole in a venerable tariff act that allowed goods derived from slave labor to enter the US is welcome news.

In part, the impetus for reform arose from evidence of slavery and human trafficking in the shrimp industry.

More than 90 percent of the shrimp consumed in the US comes from overseas shrimp farms that rely on fishmeal as shrimp food. That fishmeal is produced from fish caught by trawlers, some of whose crews are forced to work in conditions of economic slavery.

Credit: Kennedy Warne
In Bangladesh, an armada of fishers use fine nets to sieve the region's rivers for shrimp fry to supply a growing shrimp-farming industry. Credit: Kennedy Warne

While shrimp farms themselves aren’t implicated as users of slave labor (though the use of child labor has been widely reported in the industry), their feedstock is now seen as morally suspect.

Between 2006 and 2009, when I was researching shrimp aquaculture for my book on mangroves—Let Them Eat Shrimp: The Tragic Disappearance of the Rainforests of the Sea—I learned many grim details of the shrimp industry, both from former shrimp-farm workers and from communities whose lives had been affected by the depredations of the industry.

One thing to realize is that shrimp farming isn’t a labor-intensive industry like catching fish in the ocean. In fact, that’s one of the societal problems associated with the industry. It commandeers huge tracts of coastal land, displacing thousands of coastal people, while offering a paltry number of jobs in return. And those jobs are poorly paid and often involve handling dangerous chemicals.

Credit: Kennedy Warne
In the village of Curral Velho, Alouiso Rodrigues dos Santos laments the loss of his fertile land, turned into a salt marsh by brine leaking from a shrimp farm on his boundary. Credit: Kennedy Warne

So for the dozens of tropical countries where the shrimp industry has established itself—the so-called “developing” nations of Southeast Asia, central Africa and Central and South America—the primary justice issue is not enslavement of people but their displacement from traditional food-harvesting areas and the loss of a vital forest resource.

After my book was published, I gave an illustrated talk on the destructive impact of shrimp farming on mangroves to an audience of “thought leaders” in New York.

I recall getting quite passionate about the bulldozing of mangrove forests and the ensuing loss of food security for coastal people who rely on these saltwater forests for sustenance, livelihood, identity and all forms of wellbeing.

Credit: Kennedy Warne
Women from the village of Hirgigo harvest propagules from flourishing mangrove trees, which they use to plant new areas of coastline and feed their sheep and goats. Credit: Kennedy Warne

I probably quoted a mangrove activist in Honduras who said of the conversion of mangrove forests into shrimp ponds, “We have turned the blood of our people into an appetizer.”

During the question time that followed the presentation, a woman in the audience asked if there were any known health issues with eating farmed shrimp, because surely this was the only factor that would cause people to reconsider their consumption of it.

I was taken aback. Call me idealistic and naïve, but I had thought that if a compelling enough case could be made for the infringed rights, displacement and impoverishment of mangrove dwellers, this would be cause enough for seafood diners in wealthy countries to swear off farmed shrimp.

I spluttered something about social justice and the immorality of a food system that is wilfully blind to its human impacts. But I knew in my heart that for this woman—and many like her—that wouldn’t be a persuasive enough reason to shift eating choices.

ShrimpFarming Honduras L7 1987-99

The same area in Honduras shown from 1987 (bottom) to 1999 and the corresponding removal of mangrove swamps for shrimp farming. Credit: By Jesse Allen, via Wikimedia Commons

People’s moral settings are complex. Evidence of human enslavement raises an outcry and compels long-overdue legislative reform. Evidence of environmental destruction and its consequences for subsistence communities? Not so much. That’s a more complex issue, involving as it does the collusion of the very governments that should be upholding the existence rights and food security of its least powerful citizens. It’s easy to let the issue slide.

Yet at the very least, knowledge is an essential first step to taking responsibility.

My New York audience may still be eating shrimp cocktails, but they can’t say they don’t know whose blood is in that appetizer.

Photo credit: Flock/bandada by user Rafael Edwards

News From the Mangroves

Mangrove planting in Kiribati. Photo by Kennedy Warne.


Mangrove planting in Kiribati. Photo by Kennedy Warne. Mangrove planting in Kiribati. Photo by Kennedy Warne.


Earlier this year I was planting mangrove seedlings in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati. It was unspeakably hot and humid on the white lagoon sands in the glare of the equatorial sun, but my companions and I were full of the energy and esprit de corps of those who know that small acts of ecological investment can yield outsize environmental dividends. In Kiribati, and in islands and coastal communities around the world, there is growing realization that mangroves have a crucial role to play in protecting land, enhancing fisheries, sustaining livelihoods and stabilizing climate.

In 2011, when Let Them Eat Shrimp was published, those benefits were less widely appreciated. Today, especially in light of the urgency to address runaway global warming, the rainforests of the sea have come to seen as vital carbon assets and biodiversity storehouses.

So how well are the world’s mangrove forests doing in 2015?

I suppose the answer would have to be “better than they were, but not as well as they should be.” I still see the words “mangrove destruction” and “alarming rate” linked together in reports of changing land use—typically from mangrove wetlands to aquaculture ponds and agricultural areas.

The twin boom crops of shrimp and palm oil still fuel far too much wetland loss. In a report released late last year, the United Nations Environment Program noted that mangrove forests are still being cleared three to five times faster than terrestrial forests.

Yet the tide is turning. Part of this turn is a response to scientific work that overwhelmingly shows that the economic value of intact mangrove forests far exceeds returns from converting them to other uses, such as shrimp ponds. In a paper published in late 2014 that compared ecosystem and livelihood values from Amazonian mangrove forests with the productivity and commercial returns of shrimp farms, the researchers concluded that “aquaculture activities in the Amazon coastal plain are not sustainable from environmental and socioeconomic perspectives.”

Consumer education over the provenance of food is also playing a part. Marine certification programs have been developed that aim to give customers the information they need to determine if the seafood they buy is sustainably sourced.

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council, founded in 2010, is one such program. Under ASC standards shrimp grown in aquaculture farms sited in mangrove systems cannot be certified if those farms were built after 1999. Farms built before that date have to demonstrate that they are taking compensatory measures (such as replanting mangroves elsewhere) in order to have their product certified.

The outcome is that in countries such as Vietnam, which allowed massive conversion of mangroves to shrimp ponds in the 1980s, some areas are now seeing net afforestation, rather than net loss. And this year Sri Lanka legislated to protect all its mangrove forests—a move that could prompt other nations to follow suit.

The value of “blue carbon”—the immense repository of carbon stored in mangroves, seagrass beds and tidal marshes (and thus kept out of the atmosphere)—is now not only unquestioned, but increasingly seen as a pivotal economic asset for the mostly developing countries where these ecosystems flourish.

Even so, carbon funding mechanisms are still in their infancy. I look forward to the day when thriving carbon markets operate in all developing countries with large mangrove expanses, providing viable economic alternatives to forest clearance for coastal dwellers whose income options are few.

Tinaai Teaua picking mangrove seedlings to be planted in Kiribati. Photo by Kennedy Warne. Tinaai Teaua picking mangrove seedlings to be planted in Kiribati. Photo by Kennedy Warne.


Ten years ago, when I started researching mangroves for National Geographic—the work that led to Let Them Eat Shrimp—it was my encounters with mangrove dwellers, seeing at first hand the suffering they face when their forests are destroyed, that most affected me.

My eyes are still on those people and their prospects. I believe their situation is improving, but there is much that the developed world must do to strengthen their long-term security—by choosing sustainable seafood, avoiding products derived from forest clearance, and supporting carbon financing mechanisms that promote the preservation of mangrove forests.

Los pueblos del manglares, the people of the mangroves, must not fall from our view. As Pope Francis stated forcefully in the encyclical he issued a fortnight ago, “a true ecological approach . . . must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”