Our Dying Planet: An Ecologist's View of the Crisis We Face First Edition
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From the Inside Flap
“Peter Sale's book shows us the exquisite sensitivity of ecosystems to the consequences of human activity. This is the anthropocene epoch, a time when human beings have become a force of nature, altering properties of the biosphere on a geological scale. Read this and you will know it is very late and we must act.” ―David Suzuki, author of The Sacred Balance and The Legacy
“Disruptions such as overfishing, forest desecration, ocean acidification and pollution, and the wholesale destruction of coral reefs have already changed the earth disastrously. These problems will not fix themselves. For an articulate and crucial discussion of the mess we've made ― and with some small hope for the future ― you must read this book."―Richard Ellis, author of The Empty Ocean and The Great Sperm Whale
“A bold and convincing explication of the forces inexorably leading to an environmental collapse, and sooner than most people think. Sale, a leading ecologist, tackles some sacred cows – including the implications of human population growth – and shows the many synergisms between impacts that would be devastating even if they acted alone – which they don’t. No one will read Our Dying Planet and remain complacent, but Sale sketches some promising paths out of our dilemma.”―Daniel Simberloff, coeditor of Encyclopedia of Biological Invasions
- Publisher : University of California Press; First edition (September 12, 2011)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 360 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0520274601
- ISBN-13 : 978-0520274600
- Item Weight : 1.3 pounds
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,898,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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"Given that the world has changed, sometimes drastically, in the geological past and is changing today, we must recognize that it may change drastically in the future. When I look at the available data, I see three factors suggesting that the changes happening now or the ones likely to happen in the future are somewhat special--which is science talk for 'alarming.'
First is the changes, climatic and otherwise, that are presently occurring are more rapid than any in the past, except for rare cases when events such as the arrival of a large meteorite caused changes very quickly.
Second is that some of the changes occurring now are different from any that have happened before, and many different kinds of change are occurring at once.
Third is that the more severe changes in past periods have led to mass extinctions, including the removal of the dominant organisms. We are the dominant organism's of today's world...
Putting it simply, I aim to convince you that we live in challenging times, and our challenge is not to manage the world so that it does not change, but to manage our impacts so that patterns of change do not become so severe that devastating tipping points are exceeded."
The above extract comes from the introduction of this powerful, well-written book by Peter F. Sale. Sale, an ecologist (specifically, an animal ecologist), is assistant director at the Institute for Water, Environment, and Health at the United Nations University. He is also professor emeritus at the University of Windsor (in Ontario, Canada).
Ecology is that branch of the science of biology that deals with the relations between living organisms and their environment. Thus, Sale as an ecologist has to be an expert on the environment. His expertise shines through in this book.
The book itself is divided into three parts:
The first part (4 chapters) looks at four specific examples of how our activities impact the natural world.
The second part (2 chapters) can be summarized by asking the following question:
In view of all the human-caused devastation mentioned in the first part, why don't we humans get it? (That is, why don't we understand that we have a big and growing environmental problem?)
The third and my favourite part (4 chapters) looks into what we must do so as not to reach critical environmental tipping points. Then humanity's possible alternative futures are presented. But before all this can be discussed, it's important to know what a loss of ecological complexity means for the world and this is what the first chapter of this part does.
Throughout this book, there are illustrations especially in the first part. Each chapter begins with a black-and-white picture. I found all of these informative and interesting.
Finally, this book is not all about doom and gloom (as you might expect from a book like this). As Sale says:
"We have the opportunity to choose [a] future [for humanity] that will unfold and the capacity to make it happen; and we humans have a history of moving quickly once we make the collective decision to move at all."
In conclusion, the most important thing you should get from this book is that the environmental problems that we have created WILL NOT FIX THEMSELVES.
(first published 2011; preface; introduction; 3 parts or 10 chapters; main narrative 305 pages; bibliography; index)
<<Stephen Pletko, London, Ontario, Canada>>
What is the cause of our Holocene Extinction? The over-simplified answer (which does not do justice to Sale's full arguments) is - too many people consuming too many resources at a rate at which they cannot be replenished coupled with excessive use of fossil fuels.
Sale examines the importance of "ecological complexity" and recasts our understanding of "resilience" by suggesting that particular ecosystems (or perhaps particular "patches" of ecosystems) have "inertia" and can withstand a certain amount of disruption until such time as disruption is so overwhelming that the ecosystem, or patch, changes its character - for example from forest to desert or from sea-ice to open water.
Sale reminds us that technologies exist NOW to allow us to improve matters by replacing fossil fuels with energy from falling water, solar, wind, waves, etc. He states forcefully that we know the answers. We already know what to do. For example, reduce energy use by building to LEED standards, enlarge railway nets to reduce energy used in truck transport, encourage smaller numbers of children, etc. What we lack is public consensus and the political will to do it.
Sale's goal is to cause us all to come to a very widespread understanding of why we must change our ways - and to do so on ALL fronts. His hope is that this understanding will help to create a the sea change in public attitudes and behavior that may, finally, persuade politicians to pay attention to assuring that the global ecosystems remain habitable for our children and their children.
Sale's litany of unhappy news is presented with a lively and accessible writing style, peppered with frequent intriguing anecdotes from his research life (for example, observation of the real estate transactions of damsel fish) and some most intriguing real-life examples of "doing it right" - of hopeful management of the sort that might steer us away from the looming disasters. There IS hope - if we can only manufacture the concerted public and political will to reduce our reliance on fossil fuel and, most of all, to reduce our population growth.