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The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691138985
ISBN-10: 0691138982
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Editorial Reviews


"The author conveys his message in a clear writing style without using highly technical concepts or terminology."--B.R. Shmaefsky, Choice

"Kricher's book is of interest to environmental historians and historians of science not only on account of the information it contains, but also because within it there is so little of the scholarship of the history of the environmental sciences with which we, in the humanities and social sciences, are familiar."--Jane Carruthers, Environment and History

"With The Balance of Nature, John Kricher has done us the favor of producing the book our non-ecological parents should read. In a scant 200 pages of accessible prose, Kricher weaves together three themes about which any literate citizen should be aware. . . . The Balance of Nature hits its mark. Buy a copy for your parents, your students, and your children today."--Aaron M. Ellison, Ecology

"The relationship between science and non-science belief systems especially religious belief system has always been an uneasy one. Even though this book clearly sides with science in disclaiming the notion of the 'balance of nature', it is still relevant to people who hold to the Judeo-Christian creation belief and of other religious backgrounds who are interested in the workings of the natural world."--Richard S. Mbatu, International Journal of Environmental Studies

From the Back Cover

"John Kricher masterfully describes the ancient origins of the concept of a balance of nature and its unquestioned incorporation into the thinking of many ecologists and conservationists. This concept implies an overarching purpose or design in the natural world, making it inconsistent with our understanding of how evolution works. Kricher shows that we can understand and protect natural ecosystems better by rejecting the assumption that nature is a well-designed machine and accepting the true complexity created by numerous interacting species."--Robert Askins, Connecticut College

"This is a highly readable account of ecology, rich in substance, metaphor, and examples. The author's main goal is to puncture the cozy idea that nature is in a state of balance. While the concept of balance fitted the philosophy of some of the ancient Greeks and their intellectual descendants, John Kricher explains how it has repeatedly failed the test of empirical science. Nature, he shows, is much more interesting."--Peter R. Grant, Princeton University

"A deft and inviting tour of ecology and evolution, a book of revelation about the balance of nature that really counts, namely that between ourselves and the living planet. This is an appealing read that reveals the most important story of human history."--Thomas E. Lovejoy, president of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment

"Kricher's new book challenges our long-held belief in the balance of nature. Presenting fascinating evidence in a highly readable style, Kricher makes the case that no, there is no balance within nature, but yes, we need a sounder ethic that trumpets the urgency that we must save our environment--now!"--Herb Raffaele, United States Fish and Wildlife Service

"Kricher is an excellent storyteller and this is an important story to tell. I thoroughly enjoyed this little book. It is chock full of interesting ideas that challenge conventional wisdom. The Balance of Nature is a fun read throughout, and will appeal to a broad range of readers both within and outside the discipline."--Richard Karban, coauthor of How to Do Ecology

"Kricher dispels the popularly held notion that nature exists in some single, harmonious balance, and shows how, as a consequence, we need to change the way we view nature. His passion and breadth of understanding come through very clearly. The Balance of Nature is a charming and very readable book."--Oswald Schmitz, Yale University


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (May 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691138982
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691138985
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,022,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If you believe in evolution, says biology professor John Kricher, you shouldn't believe in "the balance of nature." You know that species are constantly changing, so ecosystems must be also. Research since Darwin shows that shorter time scales also show no balance. Fifteen thousand years ago, the area where Kricher teaches had been scraped clean down to bedrock by advancing glaciers. Plants and animals moved away, but they didn't move as a group, as a single system. They moved at different rates, and not always in the same direction. When the glacier retreated, plants and animals came back, again at different rates.

For a long time, ecologists thought of ecosystems as tightly-knit communities, almost supra-organisms. Everything fit and worked together. It was what nature wanted and what, at least without human interference, it would go to. No ecologist, says Kricher, believes this anymore. Living things are always interdependent but never neatly balanced.

Any sort of disturbance will change the plants and animals in an area: more or less rain, higher or lower temperatures, storms, etc. And disturbances are inevitable. Gardeners know that one year there can be an infestation of a certain bug and the next year hardly any. Accidents of history can lead to substantially different ecosystems in similar areas right next to each other. The balance of nature is intuitively appealing. It has roots in Greek philosophy and Christian natural theology. It was taken over by early ecologists. But nowadays, no good ecologist believes it, any more than they believe in a 6,000 year old earth. Individual living things come and go depending on how conditions change. Every place is unique and constantly changing.
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Format: Hardcover
John Kricher has done a masterful job of tracing the long history of ideas about a "balance of nature" and presents well-crafted arguments that refute the concept. Nature is not now in balance nor has it ever been--nature is dynamic and constantly changing. The heart and soul of the book is his analysis of evolution as the major controlling factor in nature. Humans have had an inordinate impact on natural systems and Kricher makes a strong case that humanity's future depends on how we act towards the world's ecosystems. This is truly a marvelous book--a must read for anyone interested in ecology, evolution, or conservation--and that should be everyone.
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Format: Hardcover
In many ways, Kricher explains Nature has no balance. Thus, any change will have a consequence, and changes are occurring all the time. Kricher correctly pinpoints people's concern about the economy. Yet, with Nature, it is dismissed as having a "balance."

Significant chapters were: Chapter 4 is "Ecology B.C. ("Before Charles). Chapter 5 is "Ecology A.D. ("After Darwin). Chapter 8 "Ecology and Evolution Process." Wow, Darwin was a game changer for all scientific thought about biology and natural history of living organisms!

Kricher approaches ecological changes, over time, from several directions: astronomy, geologically, bio-diversity, evolution, how natural selection really works, climate, specie function (vs. purpose), biological vectors and specie relationships (keystone specie, top down vs bottom up, food chain, etc).

You will receive an education reading "Balance of Nature"!!!
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By Tom E on November 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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