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Our Dying Planet: An Ecologist's View of the Crisis We Face Hardcover – September 12, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Sale brings ecology alive while giving a solid understanding of the science at work behind today's pressing environmental issues. . . . A must-read for those that care about the planet Earth.”
(Ian Paulsen The Guardian / Birdbooker Report Blog 2011-08-28)

“Sale provides a solid introduction to the study of ecology, simultaneously making readers comfortable with the science at hand and stressing the need to address collapsing ecosystems.”
(Robin K. Dillow Library Journal 2011-12-16)

“A deeply researched and clear-eyed call to arms.”
(Richard P. Grant The Scientist 2012-01-01)

“Sale provides much food for thought in this provocative look at a hotly debated subject.”
(Kirkus Reviews 2011-08-01)

Thorough, balanced and state of the art. . . . A Powerful, multifaceted, vivid analysis of human-induced environmental change. . . . A rewarding read.”
(Matthias Schaefer Basic & Applied Ecology 2012-10-12)

“[Sale’s] prose and storytelling are engaging and flow well, and many complex concepts are well explained. . . . Instructive and intriguing.”
(Erle C. Ellis, University of Maryland Qtly Review Of Biology 2013-03-22)

“Sale has a gift for accurately observing and communicating complex scientific concepts to nonscientists; any adult with a high school education can understand and appreciate this work. . . . Highly recommended.”
(D. Flaspohler Choice 2012-03-01)

“Full of nasty surprises. . . . an important book about the future of life on a warmer earth.”
(Jan McGirk Huffington Post 2012-03-24)

“There is a delicate balance between showing the true complexity of environmental problems and keeping the science of these fields accessible to non-scientists. It is a balance that Sale, for the most part, navigates deftly.”
(Ashley Titterton Canadian Dimension 2012-02-15)

From the Inside Flap

" Our Dying Planet is the most powerful statement on the future of life on earth I have ever read. Starting with the title, which I admire greatly, it delivers the sort of honest, accurate, no-punches-pulled assessment you would expect from a scientist who has seen the problems first hand. Coral reefs appear set to be the first major ecosystem to go extinct. Few people know more about this than Peter Sale. If every scientist were to speak as convincingly as Sale, the public might finally grasp the seriousness of the course on which we've set our planet."—Randy Olson, author of Don’t Be Such a Scientist

“Peter Sale's book shows us the exquisite sensitivity of ecosystems to the consequences of human activity. This is the anthropocene epoch, a time when human beings have become a force of nature, altering properties of the biosphere on a geological scale. Read this and you will know it is very late and we must act.” —David Suzuki, author of The Sacred Balance and The Legacy

“Disruptions such as overfishing, forest desecration, ocean acidification and pollution, and the wholesale destruction of coral reefs have already changed the earth disastrously. These problems will not fix themselves. For an articulate and crucial discussion of the mess we've made — and with some small hope for the future — you must read this book."—Richard Ellis, author of The Empty Ocean and The Great Sperm Whale

“A bold and convincing explication of the forces inexorably leading to an environmental collapse, and sooner than most people think. Sale, a leading ecologist, tackles some sacred cows – including the implications of human population growth – and shows the many synergisms between impacts that would be devastating even if they acted alone – which they don’t. No one will read Our Dying Planet and remain complacent, but Sale sketches some promising paths out of our dilemma.”—Daniel Simberloff, coeditor of Encyclopedia of Biological Invasions
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (September 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520267567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520267565
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,237,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jon at Uwindsor on September 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Peter Sale is an able communicator of difficult news and in this book gives the reader his informed take on the major environmental crises facing us. These crises are essentially all global environmental "elephants in the room" as he sees them, and Sale uses science, plus his own life experiences as an ecologist to tell the story.
Sale's book is that of a leading coral reef scientist and ecologist of note. He has broad experience and in the book speaks cogently to all the major ecological crises confronting us. His narrative weaves together engaging autobiographical and firsthand field experiences from over the past forty years. The story is at once a kind of paean to snorkeling in some of the sweetest reef environments around the world and a compelling case for an objective way forward in a world of over-consumptiveness.
The book is clearly written including throughout little personal details often held in footnotes that bring the author front and centre, while remaining in the footnotes; the text is admirably objective for so personal a treatment of this subject.
Sale takes the reader on a fascinating tour of the world, mostly visiting marine field stations and coral reefs of the world that he has been to many times and examined closely over decades, and which he connects to current ecological realities. Along the way the reader is introduced in clear and engaging ways to ecological and demographic fundamentals -trophic level, age cohort, ecological footprint, biocapacity, etc., that help us understand modern day realities within the realms of fisheries ecology, coral reef biology, forestry and biodiversity patterns, as well as climate change.
The science is described clearly and its relevance is well demonstrated.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Anna Mallin on September 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Peter Sale is an academic. In his book, Our Dying Planet, he addresses a non-academic audience and reviews the ongoing changes in the natural environment in which we live. He states that we are now experiencing the "Holocene Extinction" - an extinction of species that may be proceeding at a much faster pace than at any previous time in our planet's history. Does this reduction of number of species matter? Perhaps not much on an individual level - the world's ecosystems can perhaps survive the loss of the Dodo. But at some point the cumulative effects will cause major disruptions, the tipping point will be exceeded and the world around us will become a very different place from the one we know.

What is the cause of our Holocene Extinction? The over-simplified answer (which does not do justice to Sale's full arguments) is - too many people consuming too many resources at a rate at which they cannot be replenished coupled with excessive use of fossil fuels.

Sale examines the importance of "ecological complexity" and recasts our understanding of "resilience" by suggesting that particular ecosystems (or perhaps particular "patches" of ecosystems) have "inertia" and can withstand a certain amount of disruption until such time as disruption is so overwhelming that the ecosystem, or patch, changes its character - for example from forest to desert or from sea-ice to open water.

Sale reminds us that technologies exist NOW to allow us to improve matters by replacing fossil fuels with energy from falling water, solar, wind, waves, etc. He states forcefully that we know the answers. We already know what to do.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By jakeofish on October 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Our tradition of environmental literature has been built by thinkers ranging from philosophers (Walden, Leopold), statesmen (Marsh, Gore), journalists (Kurlansky, Quammen), activists (Muir, Maathai), novelists (Abbey, Bass), and others of many and varied stripes.

But in my view, the most fundamental, and often the most penetrating, contributions to this body of thought come from research scientists. For environmental issues have at their core processes operating in the realms of ecology, oceanography, geology, molecular biology, evolutionary biology, climatology, and other disciplines of the physical and biological sciences. Therefore, the insights of Paul Ehrlich, E.O. Wilson, Jared Diamond and others of their ilk help us understand these challenges at their most fundamental level.

Joining this group of accomplished research scientists who have stepped out of the ivory tower to convey crucial messages much more far and wide steps Dr. Peter Sale. Dr. Sale is arguably the world's foremost expert on the ecology of coral reefs, and has spent a lifetime pushing the limits of our understanding of these complex and fascinating ecosystems. Now, in "Our Dying Planet," Sale uses coral reefs as a lens for understanding the challenges facing our planet and ourselves. For coral reefs sit at the nexus of nearly all of the major threats to environmental sustainability: climate change, overharvesting, pollution, watershed management, coastal development, and other impacts. Accordingly, they serve as the proverbial "canary in the coal mine" of where we might be headed if we don't change our ways.

But Sale uses coral reefs not simply as a lens, but also as a springboard.
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