Steven Murawski, 68, is a professor in the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida and lead author of Scenarios and Responses to Future Deep Oil Spills: Fighting the Next War. He recently appeared at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading. After hearing his expertise on deep oil drilling and the fragility of the Gulf of Mexico, an audience member asked him to recommend what she could do immediately to start advocating for safer waters. He recommended she read Hot, Flat, and Crowded, a book by Thomas Friedman, a journalist generally credited with coining the term “Green New Deal." His quick answer made us want to circle back and chat.
What’s on your nightstand?
I do recommend Hot, Flat, and Crowded. It’s a bit older, but it helps in what we can do, and Thomas Friedman has an international viewpoint. But currently, I do have a couple books. I’m heading up to New York City, so I am rereading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I wanted to read it before we see the play. I’m pretty far into it.
Have you read To Kill a Mockingbird before?
Yes, but it’s been a long time.
Are you seeing things in the book you didn’t see the first time around?
I find I’m interested in seeing the different points of view from the people involved and to think of how I would react to a set of circumstances. We get a much wider perspective as we get older.
What other book are you reading?
I also have The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt by Andrea Wulf. This year marks his 250th birthday. He’s known as a great naturalist adventurer. He was a botanist and observer of nature, and so I am drawn to him of course from an oceanographer’s point of view, but another reason I got so interested in him was when I was in Havana, I happened to be walking down a street and there was a statue of him. It turns out he spent quite a bit of time in Cuba to understand plant diversity and also study the ethnography of people.