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Fragile Dominion: Complexity and the Commons Paperback – June, 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
Levin, an internationally renowned mathematical ecologist at Princeton University, believes that the earth is under severe environmental assault. His basic premise for coping with this problem is perfectly clear: "to have any hope of dealing with such a complex combination of threats to our survival, we must study the Earth as an integrated physical and biological system." To this end, he provides a lucid introduction to ecological thought, focusing on how ecosystems and ecological communities are structured, with an emphasis on biodiversity. By answering a series of questions ("How has biodiversity arisen? What maintains it? And how fragile is it and the services it provides?"), Levin introduces readers to current ecological theories, summarizing the primary literature in a form accessible even to scientific neophytes. Through these ideas, he discusses how ecosystems achieve stability and how resistant they may or may not be to human interference. Unfortunately, Levin's final chapter on the "eight commandments of environmental management" is too short to be useful. The commandments (reduce uncertainty, expect surprise, maintain heterogeneity, sustain modularity, preserve redundancy, tighten feedback loops, build trust and do unto others...), while interesting, are presented so generally that it is unclear how they can be used to formulate tangible policy. Nevertheless, Levin ably illustrates how the evolving science of complexity can shed light on the earth's ecology.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Scientific American
"In what he calls a 'cautionary tale,' Levin asserts that 'Mother Earth is in trouble' as a habitat for humanity because of pollution, new diseases, and 'staggering losses' of biological diversity. Drawing on Lego's, Scrabble, and the Harlem Globetrotters, he writes of ecological systems, the environment and the biosphere, and concludes with 'the eight commandments' of environmental management."
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If we are to succeed in restoring the ecological balance of the biosphere, then we must realize that each of our actions on a local level has global impact; as is characteristic of complex non-linear systems. Capturing the "self-interest attention" of individuals for local action, is more practical than trying to capture attention for global action. Local action propagates outwards and positively impacts the Ecological Adaptive Landscape.
Fragile Dominion is more than just a book on ecology. It illuminates "complexity theory", in a warm and friendly way. Empowering us all to realize that we individually make a huge difference. We are like the butterfly that spreads its wings in China, having an impact across the globe.
Fragile Dominion is valuable reading for anyone who wants to understand how the new sciences are a liberating force in heading off potential global disorders. It particularly clears the obfuscation of "complexity theory", turning it into a friendly road map to empowerment.
Levin's tireless devotion to accrue knowledge and to interact with each of his colleagues and students at universities and workshops around the globe has armed him with the intuit and insight which he imparts in Fragile Dominion. Levin is known for humbling his opponent on the squash court, for his command of biology and mathematics, and for his hilarious antics and quick wit. This revered scientist will now be known for synthesizing the field of ecology in a powerful, succinct novel. A delightful read for the scientist and nonscientist alike, Fragile Dominion, like the life about which it provides commentary, is worth the ride.
Unfortunately for us, kooky consevatives, and their ilk, are attacking science on many fronts, trying, and many times succeeding, in blocking scientific progress. What a shame! Now it's biology that's "alamist." While the globe is warming, glaciers are melting to such a degree, that it's benefiting archeology; human caused extinctions of flora and fauna are reaching epochal proportions; huge area of oceans, lakes, and bays, have dead zones due to the lack of oxygenation; our environmental laws, here in the States, such as the Endangered Species Act, are under constant attack by Neanderthals in Congress; ad nauseum, the rest of us should just bury our collective heads in the proverbial sand! But when an emminet biologist tells the truth about where our planet's precious biodiversity is heading, he's "alamist."
This one of the most apolitical books I've ever read! But I'm certainly glad the author didn't have his book vetted by conservative lunatics, or their corporate and government allies!