From Publishers Weekly
Levin, an internationally renowned mathematical ecologist at Princeton University, believes that the earth is under severe environmental assault. His basic premise for coping with this problem is perfectly clear: "to have any hope of dealing with such a complex combination of threats to our survival, we must study the Earth as an integrated physical and biological system." To this end, he provides a lucid introduction to ecological thought, focusing on how ecosystems and ecological communities are structured, with an emphasis on biodiversity. By answering a series of questions ("How has biodiversity arisen? What maintains it? And how fragile is it and the services it provides?"), Levin introduces readers to current ecological theories, summarizing the primary literature in a form accessible even to scientific neophytes. Through these ideas, he discusses how ecosystems achieve stability and how resistant they may or may not be to human interference. Unfortunately, Levin's final chapter on the "eight commandments of environmental management" is too short to be useful. The commandments (reduce uncertainty, expect surprise, maintain heterogeneity, sustain modularity, preserve redundancy, tighten feedback loops, build trust and do unto others...), while interesting, are presented so generally that it is unclear how they can be used to formulate tangible policy. Nevertheless, Levin ably illustrates how the evolving science of complexity can shed light on the earth's ecology.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Scientific American
"In what he calls a 'cautionary tale,' Levin asserts that 'Mother Earth is in trouble' as a habitat for humanity because of pollution, new diseases, and 'staggering losses' of biological diversity. Drawing on Lego's, Scrabble, and the Harlem Globetrotters, he writes of ecological systems, the environment and the biosphere, and concludes with 'the eight commandments' of environmental management."