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The World According To Pimm: A Scientist Audits the Earth
 
 



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The World According To Pimm: A Scientist Audits the Earth [Hardcover]

Stuart Pimm
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 20, 2001 0071374906 978-0071374903 1
Take a globe-circling tour of our endangered planet with conservation biologist Stuart Pimm - who is taking stock and keeping score. We use 50 per cent of the world's freshwater supply. We consume 42 per cent of the world's plant growth. We are liquidating animals and plants 100 times faster than the natural rate of extinction. Such numbers should make it clear that the human impact on our planet has been, and continues to be, extreme and detrimental. Yet even after decades of awareness of our environmental peril, there remains passionate disagreement over what the problems are and how they should be remedied. Much of the impasse stems from the fact that the problems are difficult to quantify. How do we assess the impact of habitat loss on various species, when we haven't even counted them all?And just what factors go into that 42 per cent of biomass we are hungrily consuming? It is only through an understanding of the numbers that we will be able to break that impasse and come to agreement. Working on the front lines of conservation biology, Stuart Pimm is one of the pioneers whose work has put the 'science' in environmental science. In this book, he appoints himself 'investment banker of the global, biological accounts', checking the numbers gathered by tireless scientists in work that is always painstaking and often heartbreaking. Pimm explains the numerical results in lucid prose. With wit, passion, and candor, he reveals the importance of understanding where those numbers come from and what they mean. To do so, he takes the reader on a globe-circling tour of our beautiful, but weary, planet. With Pimm as our indomitable guide, we travel from the volcanic mountains and rainforests of Hawaii to the boreal forests of Siberia. We see a blue whale off the Pacific coast of Mexico, where the blue oceans are slowly turning to barren deserts.We go birdwatching high up in the leafy canopy of the Amazon, from which we can see the hundreds of smoke plumes busily working at deforestation. At times, the view looks rather grim. But Pimm is no Cassandra; he never preaches or scolds. Ever optimistic, this book presents a world filled with mysterious beauty, the infinite variety of nature, and an urgent hope that through an understanding of our planet's environmental past and present, we will be inspired to save it from future extinction. '[T]his book is unashamedly optimistic. It is a celebration of our spectacular and fascinating world. I have made no attempt to restrain my joy as I encounter its natural history and its peoples. By the time you read the epilogue you will know that our world is not doomed, it is not fatally wounded, but neither is it healthy. It needs attention...' - Stuart Pimm, from the Prologue.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Calling himself "the investment banker of the global biological accounts," conservation biologist Pimm balances the raw numbers of what the earth produces against what humans take away annually, and, as an accountant might, quietly but insistently draws our attention to long-range projections. The numbers, he finds, do not quite add up. Pimm, who is a professor of conservation biology at Columbia University's Center for Environmental Research and Conservation and who publishes regularly in New Scientist, Nature and Science, is an advocate of conservation policy nationally and abroad, but he is not prone to moralizing. As he writes, "I will not hector you about having many children, driving a large car, eating meat," and yet he says that "the impacts I will describe already seriously degrade the lives of huge numbers of people." With clarity and humor, Pimm cites quantities, such as the one billion tons of plant growth human beings eat each year, the 35% of the oceans' continental shelf productivity they consume and the 60% of accessible freshwater runoff they utilize. Basing his argument on massive numbers like these, and on his own genial but forceful responses to them, Pimm makes a strong case for "ecology on a global scale." Readers reached by this book may just change their habits.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Professor of conservation biology at the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation at Columbia University, Pimm was featured in the 1996 PBS Nova program "Nature's Numbers." Like David Malin Roodman's The Natural Wealth of Nations: Harnessing the Market for the Environment (LJ 11/1/98), this book explains environmental issues numerically to answer questions of whether humans will be better off in the next century. Written in a conversational and anecdotal style with less emphasis on theory than found in Roodman's book, Pimm's study distills scientific findings from such noted journals as Nature and Science into simple, memorable numbers and noteworthy facts. Witty chapter headings such as "Billions of Tons of Green Stuff," "When Vegetation Rioted and Big Trees Were King," and "Man Eats Planet! Two-Fifths Already Gone!" will appeal to a wide range of readers. Despite the irritating references to subsequent chapters and inconsistency in italicized subpoints, this book is recommended, especially for environmental planners, statisticians, mathematicians, science librarians, and nonspecialists who seek to be better informed. Margaret Aycock, Gulf Coast Environmental Lib., Beaumont, TX
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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