Carl Safina’s Work

(above photo: Carl Safina with elephant seal and penguins, South Georgia. © Barb Ferguson)

Carl Safina is best known for lyrical non-fiction writing. His work explores how we are changing the natural world and what the changes mean for human and non-human beings. Safina sees that the durability of human dignity and survival of the natural world will depend on each other; we cannot preserve the wild unless we preserve human dignity, and we cannot conserve human dignity while continuing to degrade nature. His work fuses scientific understanding, emotional connection, and a moral call to action.

Carl was born to parents whose Brooklyn apartment was filled with singing canaries—his father’s hobby. Trips to New York’s zoos, aquarium, American Museum of Natural History, and his uncles’ boat lit a city kid’s early fascination with animals. He began raising homing pigeons at age seven, and spent his teen years training hawks and owls, and immersed in fishing, bird-banding, and camping. Soon these passions took him on adventures in Kenya, Nepal, Greenland, and Arctic Canada and beyond.

Carl Safina’s seven books include “Song for the Blue Ocean,” “The View From Lazy Point; A Natural Year in an Unnatural World,” “A Sea in Flames; The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout,” “Beyond Words; What Animals Think and Feel,” and others. He hosted the 10-part PBS television series Saving the Ocean (which can be viewed at Carl contributes frequently to, National Geographic,The New York Times, Audubon, The Huffington Post and others. His most recent TED Talk received a million views in its first month.

Audubon magazine named Carl Safina among its “100 Notable Conservationists of the 20th Century.” In 2011, Utne Reader listed him among “25 Visionaries Changing the World.” His work has won the Lannan Literary Award, Orion Book Award, National Academies’ Science Communication Award; the John Burroughs, James Beard, and George Raab medals; Pew and Guggenheim fellowships, and a MacArthur “genius” fellowship.

Safina’s seabird studies earned him a Rutgers University PhD, then for a decade he worked on overhauling fishing policies, helping restore ocean wildlife. In the 1990s he helped lead campaigns to ban high-seas driftnets, overhaul U. S. fisheries law, improve international management of fisheries targeting tunas and sharks, achieve passage of a United Nations global fisheries treaty, and reduce albatross and sea turtle drownings on commercial fishing lines. Along the way, he became a leading voice for conservation, widening his interests from what is at stake in the natural world to who is at stake among the non-human beings who share this astonishing planet.

He is the endowed professor for Nature and Humanity at Stony Brook University, where he formerly co-chaired the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at the University’s School of Journalism. Safina is founder of The Safina Center. He has honorary doctorates from Drexel and Long Island Universities and the State University of New York.

Safina has been profiled in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and on Nightline, and has been featured on National Public Radio; Bill Moyers’ special Earth on Edge; on on TV shows ranging from The Martha Stewart Show to The Colbert Report.

His latest bestselling book, Beyond Words; What Animals Think and Feel, affirms his role as one of today’s leading voices for nature. In The New York Review of Books, Tim Flannery wrote: “Beyond Words is gloriously written… Along with Darwin’s Origin and Richard Dawkins’s Selfish Gene,Beyond Words has the potential to change our relationship with the natural world.”