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Sustainability: A Philosophy of Adaptive Ecosystem Management Hardcover – November 1, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0226595191 ISBN-10: 0226595196
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Editorial Reviews


"Measured in terms of direct impact on environmental thinking and policy, Norton is arguably one of the top two or three environmental philosophers in the world. His reputation and import are demonstrated perfectly in this book. . . . [He] has produced yet another piece of important environmental scholarship. Natural resource management, and students thereof, would be greatly served by carefully considering the view of regimes such as adaptive management throught the critical lens of philosophical analysis. I can think of few better prompts for critical thought than Norton's treatise."
(Michael P. Nelson Environmental Conservation)

"Sustainability is the great synthesis of Bryan Norton's environmental thought. It is a comprehensive philosophical treatment of adaptive management of ecosystems, that is, how humankind may continue its life on Earth in decent conditions for the indefinite future. Considering its length and the systematic coverage of issues, there is hardly any single work comparable to it in the field of academic environmental philosophy. It is also exceptional in the sense that there is something in it for most environmental experts, from philosophy and economics to environmental politics, risk analysis, natural resources management and conservation ecology. Norton does not speak merely to his colleagues in philosophy."
(Markku Oksanen Environmental Values)

About the Author

Bryan G. Norton is professor of philosophy at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is the author of Linguistic Frameworks and Ontology, Why Preserve Natural Variety? and Toward Unity among Environmentalists, and the editor of The Preservation of Species.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226595196
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226595191
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,814,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mark T. VanDyke on March 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
By far one of the best books I have read on sustainability. This is a lengthy book and Norton can definitely be both wordy and well over my head at times, but the message is solid. Adaptive Management offers a complement to progressive viewpoints by firmly rejecting economic reductionism, while promoting an action-oriented process that doesn't allow individuals to hide behind uncertainty to avoid making tough decisions. If you are an individual who believes that environmental problems do exist, and don't want to get mired down in the polarized arguments of environment versus economics, give this book a read. Some key topics discussed in this book are:

* Linkages between science and social values
* Pragmatism and a "middle-way"
* Darwinism and evolution
* Adaptive management & social learning
* Pluralism
* Creating a new vocabulary for sustainability & environmental issues

Norton argues that our "current language is inadequate because it leads to polarization over environmental values and to ideological environmentalism." Instead Norton proposes adpative management and uses the length of the book to discuss the context and concepts that surround the implementation of such a concept. What strikes me about adaptive management is that it is geared to handle both uncertainty and learning (constant evolution), two features which logically seem crucial to dealing with todays issues. It will take me a long time to fully digest the amount of information in this book, but it was well worth the read and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of what "sustainability" is--or more importantly, could be.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Greg Fulkerson on April 27, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The main idea of this book is excellent. Norton claims we need to begin to allow experience to shape the way we live with our environment and set aside pre experiential ideology. In addition he rejects the current idea in the EPA that it is possible to separate fact from values. An alternative approach would involve a public dialogue where a plurality of values can be expressed. This is a giant leap over the current technocratic approach that tends to reduce all things to economic value. As well, we need to be thinking on different levels of space and time to make sure short term goals don't destroy future opportunities. When these conditions are in place we can begin to have a democratic process.

You will not see a global perspective as this is written by someone with a history and focus on the EPA. Nor will you see a critical discussion of a power elite or of underlying structural issues. Norton threatens a much longer book to tackle these issues. I am okay with his decision but some readers will not approve.

The above ideas are fully developed to the point that it sometimes hurts. Yes, that is better than shooting from the hip but there are several ways this book could be reorganized and condensed without sacrificing completeness, connectedness, and comprehensiveness. If you can accept this minor issue you will enjoy and benefit from this book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Frank Roettgers on February 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
First things first: Wow, what a read. Norton uses 608 pages to throw over `established' opinions about the term sustainability. I suppose this is what you have to deal with if the word "philosophy" appears in the subtitle. But don't worry. The author included "some shorter paths" for those of you who don't have the time to read this masterpiece in every last detail.

For everyone who enjoys reading, you sure will enjoy reading this one. I don't know if Norton and Hawken (The Ecology of Commerce) have ever met, but I am sure they would have a lively discussion about this topic. "Sustainability: A Philosophy of Adaptive Ecosystem Management" is a viewpoint on the interplay between today's economy, society, and environment and how individuals can influence this interaction. I liked the philosophical approach after reading so many practical guides on how to reach sustainability. This perspective gave me the chance to step back for a moment and look at the entire concept of sustainability from a completely different and new angle. This is why I consider this book a must read for every theorist and an extremely valuable read for every practitioner who is willing to broaden his/her horizon.

- Frank Roettgers, author of Going Green Together - How to Align Employees with Green Strategies
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