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Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity Ill Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195175097
ISBN-10: 0195175093
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In 1992, the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School agreed to coordinate a massive, international scientific effort under the direction of Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientist and author Chivian (Critical Condition: Human Health and the Environment) to catalog "what was known about how other species contribute to human health." The result of that extraordinary collaboration, involving more than 100 contributors, is this thorough volume, an invaluable resource for policy makers and a fascinating exploration for general readers of their hyper-connected biosphere. Species diversity, it turns out, acts as a kind of insurance policy for humans, by buffering stresses to the environment. The "mosaic of ecosystems" provide "services" (food, timber, air and water purification, waste decomposition, climate regulation) necessary for life that, due to their complexity and scale, are almost impossible to substitute. Naturally, the system is robust but vulnerable: the vultures of southern Asia, for instance, are threatened with extinction because their natural diet-carrion-has been poisoned with medicine routinely prescribed for livestock and humans. Another "service" contributed by the ecosystem is the highly useful E. coli bacteria, used in biomedical research to develop new medications and provide insight into Alzheimer's and other diseases. This book represents a landmark addition to our understanding of our ecological heritage, and the importance of preserving it. 175 color illus.
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From Booklist

A collaborative survey of biodiversity issues written and/or reviewed for accuracy by more than 100 scientists, this volume is motivated by its UN sponsors’ sense of the world populace’s indifference to the consequences of environmental degradation. Conceiving that implicating human health with the health of other species may enlist its concern, the authors collectively warn that present extinction rates are abnormally high. Seven categories of endangered species stand in as portents of the dire effects to ecosystems when extinction occurs. One chapter’s discussion about the pharmaceutical value of species in the wild warns of irreparable impairment of medical discovery whenever a species expires. Such unaccounted benefits of biodiversity amount to this volume’s major theme: the free “ecosystem services,” such as cleanliness and fecundity, furnished to watersheds and soils. Criticizing modern, industrial-scale marine fishing and agricultural practices, this volume holds forth organic farming as a viable alternative and offers readers an action list of things to do and organizations to join. Abundantly illustrated, this is a valuable, urgent resource suited to any general-interest library. --Gilbert Taylor
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 568 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Ill edition (June 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195175093
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195175097
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 1.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #213,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wow! What a comprehensive piece of work. I believe "Sustaining Life" will prove to be one of the most important books of the 21st century.

I lead a small, volunteer-run conservation organization. Our objective is to educate the public about our local fauna and flora, to get them outdoors and to inspire an appreciation for wildlife and an understanding of their habitat needs. We emphasize tolerance for wild animals which increasingly come into conflict with us, as our own population expands and development marches onward.

Early on in this work, however, it became evident to me that the average person does not see much intrinsic value to wildlife, nor believes that other species have any inherent right to occupy space on this planet. Instead, people want to know how they themselves might benefit, (beyond aesthetics and recreational opportunities), from protecting wildlife and their habitats. Why limit our own expansion for the benefit of wildlife? Why not shoot the coyote who took a lamb, the fisher that snatched a cat, the fox who snuck off with a chicken, or the groundhog who eats in a vegetable garden? Why spend money on protective fencing, guard animals, or land conservation? "What's in it for me?" they want to know.

So, I decided I needed to learn the answers to these questions: to learn more about how biodiversity benefits people. I found this book and read it cover to cover.
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Format: Hardcover
First the more practical stuff. I think the book is very cheap, because I found for a much higher price somewhere else, but also because of its size and print quality (I expected something smaller). And it arrived very fast (I got super-fast shipping for free).
Now the book. I like that it has a lot of figures. I'm a scientist and usually have to read long, black and white papers, with only formal figures. Adding figures to text books is not cheap, but is makes is much more reader-friendly. Also, it is written in a non-scientific language so that anybody can read it, and it explains all necessary scientific terms. This might be a bit boring for those familiar with terminology, but I think its better that way, because this is NOT a scientific text book, it aims to reach wider audiences. thus, it has ''basic'' chapters on what biodiversity is and why is it threatened. Still, the book is essential for conservationists. It contains many hard data on why biological conservation is not just something we should promote because of aesthetic or recreational purposes but because of live and dead issues such as medical research and disease spreading. I would have liked though more than the seven groups of living organism that were reviewed in this book, for example fungi.
This book is somehow a mixture of scientific data with general environmental education. Something I will use for my work and also to share with my friends and (future) children.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book. I got it for my personal knowledge and research, but it has come in handy for understanding either background information on several biodiversity issues or as supplemental research material that I've used in some of my class (college level) research papers. It is also a beautiful, full-color, high quality book at a very, very reasonable price. I was shocked when I got it. Other books like this would have cost way more. I'm very happy with my purchase and would recommend it to anyone with interest in this area.
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Format: Hardcover
Educational and intesting. Includes excellent discussion on biodiversity and ecosystems, and ties these into topics from medicines and human health to food and farming. Finally it closes with a discussion on what people can do. Clear explanations, good list of references and further reading.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Nicely organized text with extra room for note-taking. Looking forward to using this for my upcoming course through Harvard Ex. Looking forward to learning about making our planet a better place for all species!
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Format: Kindle Edition
I bought my kindle keyboard and that was a moment in my life when I started reading books. Sustaining life is one of the best I have ever read. First of all it's up-to-date, written in English that is well understandable for a layman. Any difficult terms are briefly explained so you understand the text afterwards. It is a mine of knowledge that helps to understand to some degree the surrounding natural processes. I do not agree with some ethical approaches with animal experimentations but the author mentions it that there are voices of concern and disagreement in this field. After all I think this book should prescribed reading in every secondary school. I wanted to purchase this book for my Kindle keyboard but unfortunately Amazon doesn't give this option. I read the book over 2 years ago and think of reading it again in a .mobi format. So, Amazon, please pull your socks up and make a version of the book to all his costumers :)
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