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Requiem for Nature Hardcover – April 1, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-1559635875 ISBN-10: 1559635878 Edition: Volume 2 Also A

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Island Press; Volume 2 Also A edition (April 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559635878
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559635875
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,013,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

How do we save the tropical rainforests of the world, answering the clarion call of so many environmental groups? For John Terborgh, a tropical biologist, the answer is dark and sobering: despite our best intentions, we may not be able to, for we lack both a coherent plan and, starkly put, the political will to do so. Sustainable development, "the mantra of the conservation movement," is of small help, Terborgh believes, because the realities of economic development are such that where the needs of humans are weighed against the needs of the natural world, nature always loses. Ecotourism, heralded as a model of economic possibility, is not much better because the novelty of seeing giant trees soon wears off and the chances of seeing wildlife are few ("restricted visibility means that most animals are not detected until the visitor is already well within the animal's flight distance, the distance at which a creature flees in the presence of a human"). If we're to save old-growth forests, Terborgh suggests, we'll have to suspend all economic activity in them, ending logging, prospecting, and recreation; only if we leave them alone do they have much of a chance. It's a grim view, and one that is unlikely to take much sway, no matter how correct it might be. Terborgh notes as much himself in his well-argued polemic, writing, "Whether we like it or not, tropical forests are worth more dead than alive. Nothing can save them short of a sea change in public opinion that registers not only in politicians' statements but also in their actions. Saving biodiversity will have to become a global obsession, not merely a pastime." --Gregory McNamee

From Scientific American

Development by humans is rapidly overwhelming the natural environment, according to Terborgh. Already, he says, "the global balance stands at roughly 5 percent for nature (counting only parks and other strict nature preserves) and 95 percent for humans," and the inevitable growth of the human population will make matters worse. Moreover, parks as they are now operated rarely work well. Even in developed countries, they are often too small to encompass the full spectrum of plant and animal life, and in developing countries they are poorly run. Terborgh, a professor of environmental science and botany at Duke University, has a few suggestions for improving the situation--national conservation trust funds, strict policing of protected areas and the internationalization of nature protection--but he does not seem optimistic that they will be widely adopted.

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Customer Reviews

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When John Terborgh publishes a book, anyone interested in the conservation of nature should read it.
Thomas Moore
He nonetheless thought that wilderness conservation globally has its best chance in South America, and he emphasizes enforcement as a necessary ingredient.
Joseph Ryan
This book contains content that is tough to swallow but like a prescribed bitter pill hopefully it will have a salubrious effect.
Brian Allen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Moore on July 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
When John Terborgh publishes a book, anyone interested in the conservation of nature should read it. One of the world's foremost tropical ecologists, Terborgh writes in an unusually pleasing and, at the same time, provocative style. If the reader is only seeking entertainment or if a rigorously researched documentary of the context of personal experiences is sought, s/he will be disappointed; but, if the interest is in stimulating thought about the problems of nature conservation, the reward will be extraordinary. "Requiem for Nature" surpasses even Terborgh's own "Where Have All the Birds Gone?" as a intellectually challenging treatise.
For me, the richest passages in "Requiem for Nature" are those in Chapter 2 that describe the ecological relationships that must be maintained if nature is to be conserved and the need for a coherent, long-term strategy to meet the challenges.
As an anthropologist who has worked in areas near Manu National Park since 1971 --even before Terborgh arrived there-- I have long been following his work and thinking on tropical forest conservation issues. And I have many, many disagreements with his perspectives. However, no one can deny the value of his contributions in challenging current fashions in thinking about nature and its conservation.
The weaknesses of "Requiem for Nature" include serious inaccuracies in Terborgh's information about the historical and political contexts of the places he describes on the basis of his own and others' work, particularly in Chapters 3 and 4.
For example, the Summer Institute of Linguistics is said to have brought the Machiguenga into the Manu Park in the 1960s (p.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Moore on July 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
When John Terborgh publishes a book, anyone interested in the conservation of nature should read it. One of the world's foremost tropical ecologists, Terborgh writes in an unusually pleasing and, at the same time, provocative style. If the reader is only seeking entertainment or if a rigorously researched documentary of the context of personal experiences is sought, s/he will be disappointed; but, if the interest is in stimulating thought about the problems of nature conservation, the reward will be extraordinary. "Requiem for Nature" surpasses even Terborgh's own "Where Have All the Birds Gone?" as a intellectually challenging treatise.
For me, the richest passages in "Requiem for Nature" are those in Chapter 2 that describe the ecological relationships that must be maintained if nature is to be conserved and the need for a coherent, long-term strategy to meet the challenges.
As an anthropologist who has worked in areas near Manu National Park since 1971 --even before Terborgh arrived there-- I have long been following his work and thinking on tropical forest conservation issues. And I have many, many disagreements with his perspectives. However, no one can deny the value of his contributions in challenging current fashions in thinking about nature and its conservation.
The weaknesses of "Requiem for Nature" include serious inaccuracies in Terborgh's information about the historical and political contexts of the places he describes on the basis of his own and others' work, particularly in Chapters 3 and 4.
For example, the Summer Institute of Linguistics is said to have brought the Machiguenga into the Manu Park in the 1960s (p.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Brian Allen VINE VOICE on October 15, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Terborgh has written a book that is a must read for anyone involved or interested in the protection of biodiversity through reserves and parks in the tropics. This book contains content that is tough to swallow but like a prescribed bitter pill hopefully it will have a salubrious effect.

I am not a biologist or professional park administrator but as a member of a board of directors on a regional land conservation organization. I will be recommending this book to all on the board. Through my travels in Africa, Central America, and South America I can understand the plight of the parks that Terborgh describes. His experience and his passion for biodiversity show in the book and as I read it I found it hard to put down. Reading this was like attending an excellent lecture knowing that the speaker was presenting a clear assesment of the situation and a novel and important directive to solve the problems.

Terborgh brings up startling facts in the book such as the entire funding for tropical conservation by all conservation organizations in the United States totals $200 million per year. This again is for every country, every continent, all the tropical parks. Yet within the United States the National Park Service has funding of 1.7 billion per year and is underfunded.

If you consider the difference in species diversity in one park such as Manu National Park in Peru with a possible 1,000 species of birds compared to all of North America north of Mexico with about 700 species
you can understand the significance of protecting these sites.

I hope that many people will read this and that many more will take action to rectify the problems that Terborgh has written about.
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