A Sea Full of Turtles: The Search for Optimism in an Epoch of Extinction

Bill Streever

Pegasus , 2024

Agent: Jill Marr

An inspired and impassioned story of adventure that explores the richness of marine life and charts a path of resillience and hope.

Everyone alive today is witnessing a mass extinction event caused by the more than eight billion humans who share this planet. At times, it seems there is little hope. Climate change, resource exploitation, agrochemicals, overfishing, plastics, dead zones in our oceans, drought and desertification, conversion of habitat to housing, farming, and industrial infrastructure—the list of impacts and insults goes on and on. We are, it seems, on an unalterable path that will continue to decimate biodiversity.

A feeling of hopelessness, while not unwarranted, is part of the problem. Without hope, without some belief in the possibility of positive outcomes, the fight for nature is over. Why even try if the battle is already lost?

While staring the problems squarely in the face, A Sea Full of Turtles offers hope for those who care about our living world. Delivered as a travel narrative set in Mexico’s Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez), at one level the book focuses on dramatically underfunded but highly successful efforts to protect sea turtles. But the book goes beyond Mexico and beyond sea turtles to look at how some humans have changed their relationship with nature—and how that change can one day end the extinction crisis.

Enchanting, galvanizing, and brimming with joy and wonder, A Sea Full of Turtles will inspire immediate action to face the great challenges that lie ahead. Pessimism is the lazy way out. Optimism, it turns out, is both a reasonable and an essential attitude for us all as we fight for the beautiful diversity of life on our Earth.


"A biologist sails off into the horizon searching for optimism and finds it...in turtles! Bill Streever's A Sea Full of Turtles reads like a playful update on John Steinbeck's classic sea tale  The Log from the Sea of Cortez. A much-needed antidote to despair."  Laura Trethewey, author of The Deepest Map and The Imperiled Ocean

“In this lovingly-crafted book, Bill Streever both builds a case for optimism for the future and takes us on a grand adventure in the boat wake of Steinbeck and Ricketts. As much about the animals as our own decisions, Sea Full of Turtles is a rare kind of honest reflection that shows us what survival can look like when we start to pay attention.” -- Juli Berwald, author of Spineless and Life on the Rocks

“If you care about the plight of sea turtles and other marine life—and we all ought to—you will be moved by this heartfelt, intimate account. With a curious eye and a gift for prose, biologist Bill Streever weaves together strands of biology, history, and anthropology in a way that only one who spends large portions of his life on and in the ocean can do.” --Jonathan Balcombe, author of What a Fish Knows and Super Fly

“With humor, intelligence, and an infectious sense of wonder, Bill Streever's Sea Full of Turtles fosters not only appreciation for the animals in its title but a fascination with the larger topic of extinction and how it might be averted. Far from being a downer about a beleaguered species, this travel and science adventure set on the hot sandy beaches of Mexico's Gulf of California is an accessible and entertaining read that admirably avoids either excess gloom or unearned optimism. Nearly a century after John Steinbeck looked for philosophical insights in Mexican tidepools, Streever has given us a new reason to find delight and tentative hope along ever-changing shorelines.”-- Andromeda Romano-Lax, author of Searching for Steinbeck's Sea of Cortez: A Makeshift Expedition Along Baja's Desert Coast 


"Even if humans have proven to be the species most responsible for extinction events, the author still ends on a hopeful note, and his creed of 'optimistic environmentalism' becomes something other than a confounding oxymoron. A hopeful consideration of the beauty and fate of wild sea turtles—and the natural world as a whole." Kirkus reviews