Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty-first Century

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9780195054910: Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty-first Century

Global warming, acid rain, the depletion of forests, the polluting of our atmosphere and oceans--the threats to our environment are numerous, raising justifiable concern among most of us and genuine alarm in some. But as scientist Daniel Botkin argues in this provocative new book, our ability to solve these problems is limited--not by our scientific knowledge--but by the age-old myths and metaphors that shape our perception of the natural world. Indeed, our beliefs about nature have fallen well behind our knowledge.
Daniel Botkin is a seasoned scientist. He has spent three decades in the field studying the changes and interactions of forests and animal species. In the 1960s he pioneered the use of computers to predict ecological trends. Now, in Discordant Harmonies, he combines his considerable expertise with the well-honed eye of the nature writer and a philosopher's sense of how ideas shape our perceptions of reality to take us on a marvelous guided tour of the natural world. His method is to introduce a problem in our beliefs about nature by giving us a fascinating case study: of predator-prey relationships, of forests evolving over centuries, of species nearing extinction, of the ways our "protection" of nature has had surprising--and often disappointing--results. Botkin's revealing case studies also highlight controversial present-day issues--like controlled burning in national forests, fishing and hunting quotas, and policy-making for management of natural resources. He looks at each of these cases in the light of past thinking and current research, revealing how old myths often blind us to the new technology and to the ways of thinking we need to solve our environmental problems. Above all, Botkin is concerned with finding the delicate balance between man and nature--that place where human needs and the intricate systems of nature can viably coexist.
Whether discussing moose herds on Isle Royale or Yosemite's famous Mariposa Grove of Sequoias, Botkin writes vividly and insightfully about nature, challenging us to rethink some of our most cherished notions. Anyone who is concerned about the environment will find much here to ponder as well as the pleasure of meeting a stimulating and thoughtful mind at work.

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About the Author:


Daniel B. Botkin teaches at George Mason University.

Review:

"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 opoening 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

"Botkin's work is a clear and lively way to grasp some implications of current ecological science." --Earth Ethics

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Daniel B. Botkin
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