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Nature's Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas (Studies in Environment and History) Paperback – June 24, 1994

11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521468343 ISBN-10: 0521468345 Edition: 2nd

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"...Worster skillfully integrates environmental and intellectual history in a way that gives powerful testimony to the way a historical understanding of the ecology of place can contribute to the history of ideas." Isis

"Excellently written and highly absorbing...The in-depth treatment Worster has given to many who contributed to the evolution and revolution of the discipline reflects scholarship of high order. To write in a highly readable and absorbing style makes it even more praiseworthy. Graduates in ecology at baccalaureate to doctoral levels, and the many practitioners of the discipline, basic and applied, would do well to take stock of where they came from. Worster is a very worthwhile guide." Edward J. Kormondy, Ecology

Book Description

Including portraits of Linnaeus, Gilbert White, Darwin and Thoreau as well as key twentieth-century ecologists, this wide-ranging investigation of the field of ecology's past shows how it in turn has shaped the modern perception of our place in nature.
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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in Environment and History
  • Paperback: 526 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (June 24, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521468345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521468343
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #139,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By "Dity" on November 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
I used to muse on the subject of environmentalism and why two seemingly opposed camps ("pro-environment" and "anti-environment"--though "anti-environment" could more fairly be termed "pro-development") think the way they do. This book answered many of my questions and started me thinking about more in-depth issues of environmentalism. The history presented is fascinating and, in some cases, appalling. I found myself thinking, "how could these people so eagerly destroy the environment that sustains them?", but at the same time the logic was right in front of me. I may not have agreed with it, but there it was.

The book is divided into six sections, which explore environmental thinking in chronological order: 1) Two Roads Diverged: Ecology in the Eighteenth Century; 2) The Subversive Science: Thoreau's Romantic Ecology; 3) The Dismal Science: Darwinian Ecology; 4) O Pioneers: Ecology on the Frontier; 5) The Morals of a Science: Ethics, Economics, and Ecology; 6) The Age of Ecology: Science and the Fate of the Earth.

This book was required reading for an environmental ethics class (something I think every college student should take), and I enjoyed reading it. We were asked to think about the points in the book in the context of 6 different frameworks: morals and ethics, religion, capitalism, the commons, science, and wilderness. I recommend that other readers do the same. Thinking about environmentalism from these different viewpoints gives it a different spin every time.

I never really considered myself an environmentalist, although I am all for living sustainably on the earth (within reason--some sustainability viewpoints are admittedly extreme). However, this book definitely shifted my opinions to those of a more environmentalist-like identity than I had before.

This review refers to the Second Edition (1994).
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Dusty J, Summit on March 12, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Viewing nature as a multi-tiered economy is not a recent revelation. Donald Worster explores the genesis of this idea back to Gilbert White during the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. In sum, nature has producers and consumers. Consumers, whether they are humans, lions, bullfrogs or fire ants feed off the producers who are usually represented by photosynthesizing life forms. Consumers often aid producers in their propagation, even though it may not always be obvious. This concept of organic bodies interacting as a community is the basis of ecology.

Because there are so many variables, ecology and environmental study is a tricky field to study. Even more adroit are the historical scholars and their examinations of the environmental study. When most authors are banging their war drums calling for a reevaluation of environmental outlook or positing radical theories, Worster wishes to pursue a "deeper awareness of the roots of our contemporary perception of nature." He does not attempt to argue much of a hard-line point throughout his book, rather than openly explore the history of ecology. This is a simple and humble way to approach any topic and can be a truly wise idea. Worster separated the history of ecological thought into half a dozen eras. His hope was to illuminate the progression of ecology from organic, to romantic, to mechanistic, to tragic, to apocalyptic, and back to organic. By patiently probing through a massively diverse history of ecological ideas, Worster has written an epic of ecological history. If J.R.R Tolkien wrote an epic of ecology it would have turned out similar to Nature's Economy.

One strength of Worster's writing is his ability to draw upon obscure characters and develop attachments to various agents of history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kriskross on May 23, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
…needs to read Donald Worster. In fact, he should be required reading to buy property anywhere west of Salina. This book, and his 1992 book, "Under Western Skies", are remarkably inspiring and challenging. For those of us who treasure the delicate and magnificent ecosystems around us, these books are a necessary arsenal against mindless development and loud self-interest groups.

"Nature's Economy" is an entire college course on the connection between history and nature. It can be challenging to read, but like climbing a tall mountain, well worth it. I would highly recommend this book to people who enjoy stimulating and well-researched reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nick on July 30, 2013
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Great introduction to some f the most influential scientific minds and their works in the field of ecology. Not the easiest read but not hard to scan through either. Best information about Darwin I've had so far.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By BRUNO S. on July 29, 2013
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I had this book for a course in postgrad, is the most complete in the subject. Worster is an authority in the field. Would love a Spanish translation to teach with it in my country.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By LL Cool Muffin on April 7, 2014
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Bought this due to a college class, it was very informative. I'm not going to say it's leisure reading but very detailed.
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