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Life in the Balance Paperback – January 31, 2000


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Product Details

  • Series: Peter N. Nevraumont Books
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (January 31, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691050090
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691050096
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,427,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Niles Eldredge lays it on the line in this book, which will probably not be read by those who most need to heed its message. Eldredge maintains that the human conquest of nature is resulting in the sixth mass extinction of life on earth. If we were coal miners, we'd be ignoring our dead canaries right now--witness the increasing rarity of amphibians, the mounting evidence of anthropogenic climate change, the wholesale destruction of the most fragile, biologically rich places on Earth, all for the sake of human desires. In textbook cases of the tragedy of the commons, he shows just how difficult it is to make holistic judgments in the face of individual need. Who would begrudge a starving child a meal of an undescribed and disappearing fish species? Eldredge doesn't spare greedy politicians and thoughtless industry chiefs, who apparently plan to continue selling us the products of environmental destruction until there's nothing left to destroy. The book's message is not without optimism, though, and Eldredge gives examples of how quickly some biomes can heal themselves given a little breathing room. The hope lies in control and moderation of our appetites, and in the celebration of biodiversity, the appreciation of underappreciated species. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Eldredge begins in Botswana's Okavango Delta, which, in his opinion, is the closest remaining place on Earth to a true Eden. But even there he finds evidence of impending ecological catastropheAthe loss of biodiversity. Just scanning the pages listing known species extinctions since 1600 is sobering.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Frank M. Sturtevant on August 4, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Eldridge, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History, recently directed a huge display on the biodiversity of life. His book reflects the science behind this exposition. It begins with a description of the Okavango Delta in Africa, as a model of our own "Eden." Subsequent chapters reveal the wide variety of life in a text understandable to the layman, proceeding then to the dangers life on earth faces in the destruction of biodiversity, leading to the "Sixth Extinction." (Readers will already be familiar with the rain forest threats in the Amazon basin.) Five prior mass extinctions of life on earth have been experienced, the last being 65 million years ago, resulting in the extinction of the dinosaurs (save the surviving birds). The Sixth we face with the destruction of earth's biodiversity as Eldridge points out.
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1 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robert Carlberg on May 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Ozone. Spotted owls. Coral reefs. Frogs. Rainforest. Passenger pigeons. The bulk of this book hits the standard guideposts in the "save the Earth" argument, and as such it's well-written and compelling (with nice illustrations) but hardly original.
More interesting are the places where the author strays off the standard screed to discuss why the tropics contain more diversity, but fewer individuals, than arctic regions. How the Panama Canal is absolutely dependent on rainfall. Why a vacant lot outside Chicago gives hope for environmental recovery. How global warming may simply be part of a normal 12,000 year ice age cycle.
In all this was an attractive, well-written book with a lot of important information -- but somehow I expected more from the co-author of the Punctuated Equilibrium theory. Maybe that's not fair -- authors cannot be revolutionary every time out.
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11 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I was disappointed both by the inaccuracies (for example, the population of Botswana at Independence in 1966 was slightly more than half a million, not 330,000 (it is now about 1.2 million); the people who live in Botswana are Batswana, not Botswanans; and Nelson Mandela is a Xhosa, not a Xhosan) and by the superficiality of the section on the Okavango. For example, Ian Scoone's work in neighboring Zimbabwe shows that, although overgrazing certainly can reduce biodiversity, semi-arid regions are more resilient than was previously thought. With adequate rainfall, the previous vegetation reappears in many cases. No mention was made of any of the positive steps taken by the Botswana government to protect the Okavango. I expected more from this book given the importance of the topic and the author's background.
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