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Fragile Dominion: Complexity and the Commons Paperback – June, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0738203195 ISBN-10: 073820319X

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Product Details

  • Series: Helix Books
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (June 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 073820319X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738203195
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #567,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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."

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By gary_leiffer@rossinc.com on June 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I, not being educated in ecology and environmental sciences, still found this book to be timely, informational and educational. The author presents his and other authoritys' complex environmental theories and ideas with brilliant, entertaining and even funny analogies which I as a naive observer could understand. From his "Ecological Scrabble", falling cows (cows were not designed to fly, of course), fast food establishments as an example of functional meta-groups, his own office desk as "self-organized system", to the common message "think globally, act locally"--- (Levin encourages us to think LOCALLY as well, to be responsible), the author concludes with a valid to-do list of action items (eight "commandments" which I found to be applicable to another environment which is currently thriving- the INERNET...)If we don't take appropriate action to protect the diversity of our environment, we could end up like the starfish, if the mussels were to takeover the rocks,, how does one eat baked starfish? Parmagiana or Marsala?
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I have known Levin just short of 30 years. He has been my mentor, my friend, my protector, and my pride. The eloquent prose and playful humor within his novel echoes the past 4 decades of Levin's teachings. It is a biographical chronicle of a lifetime of colleagues and their works, an adoration of classical music, and a relentless passion for mental conundrums and for quizzing for sport.
Levin's tireless devotion to accrue knowledge and to interact with each of his colleagues and students at universities and workshops around the globe has armed him with the intuit and insight which he imparts in Fragile Dominion. Levin is known for humbling his opponent on the squash court, for his command of biology and mathematics, and for his hilarious antics and quick wit. This revered scientist will now be known for synthesizing the field of ecology in a powerful, succinct novel. A delightful read for the scientist and nonscientist alike, Fragile Dominion, like the life about which it provides commentary, is worth the ride.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Levin takes complexity theory off the academic shelf, elaborating its theories in ways that make us feel optimistically empowered in influencing our global ecology. While others are paralyzed by complexity, Levin points out that complexity is actually an opportunity for each of us, as localities to have global influence.
If we are to succeed in restoring the ecological balance of the biosphere, then we must realize that each of our actions on a local level has global impact; as is characteristic of complex non-linear systems. Capturing the "self-interest attention" of individuals for local action, is more practical than trying to capture attention for global action. Local action propagates outwards and positively impacts the Ecological Adaptive Landscape.
Fragile Dominion is more than just a book on ecology. It illuminates "complexity theory", in a warm and friendly way. Empowering us all to realize that we individually make a huge difference. We are like the butterfly that spreads its wings in China, having an impact across the globe.
Fragile Dominion is valuable reading for anyone who wants to understand how the new sciences are a liberating force in heading off potential global disorders. It particularly clears the obfuscation of "complexity theory", turning it into a friendly road map to empowerment.
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