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Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty-first Century Paperback – April 30, 1992

4.1 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Wonderfully subversive, slyly informative."--The Toronto Globe and Mail

"A concise, lucidly penetrating examination of mankind's maddening mix of feelings -- love, hate, fear and infatuation -- for the multitude of other residents of the planet....Speaks eloquently to the issues raised as the exploding human population pushes on every habitable corner of earth."--San Francisco Chronicle

"A fascinating, in-depth study....Highly recommended"--Booklist

"Dramatic....Fascinating...reveals there may be some hope after all"--The Oregonian

"Botkin provides fascinating insight relevant to a huge greenhouse issue--how the world's forests and wildlife will respond to the coming climate change"--James E. Hansen, Director of the Institute for Space Studies, NASA/Goddard Flight Center

"In the iconoclastic tradition of Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, and James Lovelock, Daniel Botkin has used a lifetime of research in the ecological sciences as a basis for reexamining the human-nature relationship. Discordant Harmonies will be provocative to historians and philosophers as well as scientists. It is a book to pack in our intellectual baggage as we prepare for the journey into the 21st century"--Roderick Frazier Nash, author of Wilderness and the American Mind

"Those interested in broad environmental questions but not abreast of the most recent papers in ecology will find this book an important overview of what appears to be an emerging consensus."--Choice

"This book is well-written and deeply provocative. It presents a realistic point of view of the world we live in. If this is going to be the environmental decade, then Botkin has given us a marvelous opening statement suggesting what we have to do and what we have to learn. Every scientist who is concerned with the environment ought to read this book and make sure his or her friends do so as well." --BioScience

"Delightful, instructive, provocative."--Adolf G. Glindersen, Texas AandM Univ.

"Groundbreaking study of environmental issues....Botkin draws on some revealing case-studies...in order to illuminate his argument."--Ethology Ecology and Evolution

About the Author

Daniel B. Botkin is on the faculty of the University of California, Santa Barbara. He won the 1991 Mitchell International Prize for Sustainable Development for his work on the environment.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 30, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195074696
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195074697
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.6 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,257,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
First, let me say that this is a very good book, and that my comments are only meant as a cautionary note. Second, Botkin does know his "stuff" when it come to understanding ecological applications, theories, and the use of metaphors. This book was a useful, popular, corrective to the vast number of misunderstood ecological concepts at the time of its publication. That said, however, Botkin is also like a rooster: he crows too loudly, every morning. By page 38, I was already tired of his "this requires a new view and understanding of nature" which had been stated at least a dozen times before said page. Perhaps some readers will need this prose "boot to the head" reminder. Many readers will find this irritating. He is very much preaching to the choir as well. Changes in Ecology and parallel fields (Conservation Biology, Physical Geography, etc...) had already understood the past mistakes of such concepts as "equilibrium" (static) and "climax community." Botkin was about ten to fifteen years too late in writing Discordant Ecologies. Keep that in mind as you read it. If you start saying "Aha!" a lot just remember that others have already said this for decades, and that the corrective suggestions that Botkin produces have already been incorporated in the vast variety of ecological fields he discusses. This is a great book to use in a history of science, history of ecology, or biogeography class. It will also be useful to a lay audience, unfamiliar with the last 50 years or so of ecological literature. It is also rather easy to read in one sitting.
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Format: Paperback
I liked this book. It was a bit difficult to get through at first. I started the book and put it down for a few months, in chapter 3. But I picked it up again and read it all the way through. Botkin (the author) writes repeatedly about a new way of thinking that incorporates both environmental awareness and the need not to go too far in our concern about the environment. He discusses how the movement of environmentalism is basically operating on false principles, just as our mainstream industrial ways of thinking are perpretrating untold destruction of the natural world.
Botkin talks about the need for compromise, and specifically the need to think of nature in a new way. This new way that he iterates is the recognition of nature as a chaotic system. It is not constant, it is not irreversible (in some ways), and populations fluctuate under certain circumstances.
He describes how we need a new kind of ecologist. How we need people to study the animals and the ecosystems they inhabit with the idea of chaos in mind. But not complete chaos, there is structure to nature, but it is not formalized, nor is it constant. It is changing patterns that never repeat themselves, I guess Botkin might say, more eloquently than I no doubt.
He has a lengthy discussion about the role of religion in this book, which I found interesting. He even talks about the GAIA theory. Botkin re-iterates his points on numerous occasions, to the point that you almost get sick to hear them again. But he drives the point home, and his points are valid, and his view of nature, based on his own experiments is enlightening, scientific, and refreshing.
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Format: Paperback
I wish this book had been written about 15 years earlier & I wish it was currently read by a wider audience. This is a well written book in which Botkin does an excellent job at articulating some of the troubling aspects of ecological theory as they move out into the world of policy, conservation, and belief. Like many of us Botkin was obviously raised in the academic environment of "equilibrium models" or "Balance of Nature" ideologies, and like some of us he found that what he actually saw in the field didn't really match up with what the theoreticians on the one hand and the hard-core "environmentalists" on the other were saying we had to believe. Botkin recognizes and revels in the complexities of the natural world and asks some difficult questions about the role that theory plays in shaping our overall perceptions. Anybody interested in conservation, land-use, or applied ecology would do well to spend some time with this book. The only reason that I don't give it 5 stars is that I wish that Botkin had gone a little farther -one gets the sense throughout that he has seen a promised land of a "New Ecology" but he keeps drawing back, he knows that there are fatal flaws in much ecological rhetoric, but he can't quite bring himself to say "away with this nonsense". Other than that, if there was one semi-popular ecology book that I would want folks to read, this would probably be a top candidate.
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Format: Paperback
In the space of two hundred pages, Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Daniel Botkin offers us this concise and absorbing assessment of man's role in shaping the landscape with which we are now confronted, and suggests this perspective of the future: "Nature in the twenty-first century will be a nature that we make... We no longer have the luxury to believe that we can live in harmony with the environment without knowledge and understanding of natural systems." This is not a simple suggestion. Botkin reminds us of the intricacies that comprise every earth-nestled rock, every butterfly's wing, every molecule of water that falls from above. Science and knowledge, he suggests, are the keys to our future, our Promethean fire. How we use them will determine how long we will hold sway here. With a reverence for the observations of past and contemporary philosophers, scientists and nature writers, he leads us from the timbered foundation of Venice's church of Santa Maria della Salute to Eat Africa's Tsavo National Park to the remnant ancient forest woodlands of New Jersey's Hutcheson Forest to the remote and mysterious Isle Royale in Lake Superior to the lonely emptiness of te Moon and back again to Venice, on an expedition as valuable in its authenticity of observation as it is poetic in its rhythms.
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