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Green Equilibrium: The vital balance of humans and nature
     

Green Equilibrium: The vital balance of humans and nature

by Christopher Wills
 

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In Green Equilibrium, Christopher Wills explains the rules by which ecosystems maintain a diversity of interdependent species, in particular the balance of predators and prey. Wills is both an eminent academic and a hugely experienced field-biologist. In presenting the concept of 'green equilibrium', he draws on a fascinating range of examples, including coral reefs

Overview

In Green Equilibrium, Christopher Wills explains the rules by which ecosystems maintain a diversity of interdependent species, in particular the balance of predators and prey. Wills is both an eminent academic and a hugely experienced field-biologist. In presenting the concept of 'green equilibrium', he draws on a fascinating range of examples, including coral reefs off the densely populated Philippines, the isolated and densely forested valleys of Papua New Guinea, the changing Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, and a Californian ranch being allowed to return to a wild state. In each case he assesses the impact of modern changes and attempts at conservation on these delicately balanced ecosystems. Wills shows how human populations, too, are an integral part of the picture. We now know from genetic evidence that over the course of history, as humans spread out of Africa, populations adapted as a result of environmental conditions. Striking new evidence indicates that some human populations carry genes from past encounters with other hominids (Neanderthals and Denisovans), as well as genetic adaptations to local hazards such as malaria. Wills argues that the most effective approaches to conserving green equilibria come out of evolutionary insights, and from close involvement of the local communities who have lived and adapted to them.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Biologist Wills (The Darwinian Tourist) examines the state of balance that keeps life on Earth "vibrant, verdant, and ecologically intact," by taking readers on a virtual world tour while discussing examples of equilibrium and disequilibrium that he has personally observed. He declares that people can choose the path of the future: whether to continue damaging ecosystems at large; to continue with the status quo, but set aside some preserves; or to modify current behaviors based on what we have learned. He bases his studies on the assumption that people generally will choose the third path. Rather than lecturing on eco-friendly living or scientific evidence, Wills teaches science and green methods by sharing anecdotes from his own travels around the world, and numerous photographs and illustrations highlight his stories. Wills occasionally lapses into heavier science, including the Janzer-Connell hypothesis of pathogens or details of Neanderthal DNA, but the bulk of his work will appeal to anyone interested in the environment and how humans live in it. (May)
From the Publisher
"In his latest popular science book, an encompassing work of fresh and realigning perspectives and discoveries enlivened by his wildlife photographs, Wills explores how ecosystems are shaped by evolution and how we are shaped by evolution and the ecosystems we inhabit." —Booklist

"The author argues that human beings not only shape ecosystems, but are shaped by them. Thus, he writes, while we have pushed the green equilibrium out of balance in many places, making them unsustainable and threatening our own existence, the evolution of our species has given us 'pretty good brains,' with the ability to understand the problems we have created and the power to solve them. Wills is both a skilled storyteller and a talented photographer and he provides an eye-opening account of the long history of human migrations out of Africa and into Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas."
—Kirkus Reviews

"[Wills'] book is an engaging mixture of ecologist's travelogue and science exposition, which manages to convey a wide range of important ideas in evolution and ecology in the context of ecosystems around the world, including California, Sri lanka, Thailand, Africa, New Guinea, and more." — Biological Conservation

Library Journal
Field biologist Wills (biological sciences, emeritus, Univ. of California, San Diego; The Darwinian Tourist) here recounts visits to diverse wildlife reserves around the world, illustrated with his photographs, while discussing many aspects of evolution. The author describes a green equilibrium as balance among organisms that maintains a local ecosystem. No paradise, it includes predation, disease, and starvation. Humans have been a destructive force pushing many ecosystems out of equilibrium, for example, by deforestation and by killing off top predators. Yet organizations, scientists, and park rangers are working to maintain or restore many areas, sometimes risking their lives confronting illegal loggers or poachers. Two American reserves undergoing restoration ecology are the Santa Cruz Island and the former Sedgwick Ranch, both located near Santa Barbara in southern California. Wills believes growing awareness of our huge environmental impact means we must take responsibility. VERDICT The author articulates many aspects of biology through the ages, but his rapid shifts among different nature reserves can be disorienting. Biology students, fans of the author's previous books, and anyone interested in sustainability will appreciate his points.—David Conn, formerly with Surrey Libs., BC
Kirkus Reviews
A field biologist with camera in hand travels around the planet to discover the factors that lead to the survival of balanced ecosystems. Wills (Emeritus Biological Sciences/Univ. of California, San Diego; The Darwinian Tourist: Viewing the World Through Evolutionary Eyes, 2010, etc.) chronicles visits to sites in California, Guyana, Brazil, the Pacific and southeast Asia, some relatively pristine, some threatened, some recovering nicely from the effects of human damage. He sees the balancing of pressures on thriving ecosystems as a "green equilibrium." These pressures are constantly changing, and the greater the genetic and ecological diversity within the ecosystem's population, the greater the likelihood that some members will adapt to the changes and survive. The author argues that human beings not only shape ecosystems, but are shaped by them. Thus, he writes, while we have pushed the green equilibrium out of balance in many places, making them unsustainable and threatening our own existence, the evolution of our species has given us "pretty good brains," with the ability to understand the problems we have created and the power to solve them. Wills is both a skilled storyteller and a talented photographer, and he provides an eye-opening account of the long history of human migrations out of Africa and into Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas. He gives readers the big picture as well as the striking small details that stay in the mind, and he ends on a high note: We can quantify our impact on the environment; what is beyond quantifying is the sheer joy of making it better. For general readers, an essentially optimistic view of earth's ecological problems and the role humans have played in creating them and can play in solving them.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780191654206
Publisher:
OUP Oxford
Publication date:
03/28/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
File size:
12 MB
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This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

Christopher Wills is Professor of Biological Sciences and member of the Center for Molecular Genetics at the University of California. He received the Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology from the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1999. His research interests include the maintenance of genetic variability in human populations, the forces that maintain variation in complex ecosystems such as rainforests and coral reefs, the evolution of diseases, and the evolution of our species. He is the author of The Darwinian Tourist (OUP, 2010).

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