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Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity Ill Edition

28 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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 (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #378,156 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By cachkn46 on October 17, 2008
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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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By C. Silva on June 24, 2008
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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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Sally Clark on October 25, 2008
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Maria Barata on August 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a must for anyone who cares about our world and what we as a collective people are doing to it. When one looks around and sees what devastations there are due to such things as global warming, deforestation, destruction of ecosytems and many other changes, it is easy to see why we MUST preserve and revere what remains of all forms of life on our planet.

Editor Dr. Eric Chivian lays out for us the myriad ways in which we should revere our planet. For instance, polar bears do not go into hybernation when in captivity yet they do in the wild. Humans could never go as long as bears do without the simple process of releaving our bladders, or we'd die! As an amateur zoologist -- it all goes back to my undergrad days of studying Field and Systematic Vertebrate Zoolong in college -- I have always been interested in what goes on this planet, and am an avid fan of not only Dr. Chivian but the other writers and editors of this book.

I would also like to give a quick shout out to the PBS NewsHour, for if it wasn't for an interview with Dr. Chivian, I would never have known about this book.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Gretchen E. Kaufman on November 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The recent publication of Sustaining Life, edited by Eric Chivian and Aaron Bernstein, is an immensely valuable and timely addition to the growing body of literature in support of a One Health approach. This volume should stand as key testimony to the core value of biodiversity in maintaining the health of the planet and all life that depends on it, including humans, and should supersede political agendas that depend only on aesthetics as an argument for conservation. Best of all, this highly readable and beautifully illustrated text appeals to both science and non-science educated people and should be recommended reading for all who care about the future of our earth.
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