Nature and Human Society: The Quest for a Sustainable World

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From earliest times, human beings have noticed patterns in nature: night and day, tides and lunar cycles, the changing seasons, plant succession, and animal migration. While recognizing patterns conferred great survival advantage, we are now in danger from our own success in multiplying our numbers and altering those patterns for our own purposes.

It is imperative that we engage again with the patterns of nature, but this time, with awareness of our impact as a species. How will burgeoning human populations affect the health of ecosystems? Is loss of species simply a regrettable byproduct of human expansion? Or is the planet passing into a new epoch in just a few human generations?

Nature and Human Society presents a wide-ranging exploration of these and other fundamental questions about our relationship with the environment. This book features findings, insights, and informed speculations from key figures in the field: E.O. Wilson, Thomas Lovejoy, Peter H. Raven, Gretchen Daily, David Suzuki, Norman Myers, Paul Erlich, Michael Bean, and many others.

This volume explores the accelerated extinction of species and what we stand to lose--medicines, energy sources, crop pollination and pest control, the ability of water and soil to renew itself through biological processes, aesthetic and recreational benefits--and how these losses may be felt locally and acutely.

What are the specific threats to biodiversity? The book explores human population growth, the homogenization of biota as a result in tourism and trade, and other factors, including the social influences of law, religious belief, and public education.

Do we have the tools to protect biodiversity? The book looks at molecular genetics, satellite data, tools borrowed from medicine, and other scientific techniques to firm up our grasp of important processes in biology and earth science, including the "new" science of conservation biology.

Nature and Human Society helps us renew our understanding and appreciation for natural patterns, with surprising details about microorganisms, nematodes, and other overlooked forms of life: their numbers, pervasiveness, and importance to the health of the soil, water, and air and to a host of human endeavors.

This book will be of value to anyone who believes that the world's gross natural product is as important as the world's gross national product.

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Editorial Reviews

Fifty-one papers by scientists from agronomy to zoology are divided according to the following themes: defining biodiversity, less well- known forms of life (primarily of the smaller kind), the role of groups in biodiversity, measuring biodiversity, threats to sustainability, and lastly, developing scientific, political, and societal infrastructures for sustaining biodiversity. Locales with sustainable practices<-->including Mexico, Costa Rica, and the southwestern U.S.<-->are discussed, as are new disciplines that seek sustainability, such as conservation medicine, which seeks protection of biodiversity primarily in the name of pharmaceuticals. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780309065559
  • Publisher: National Academies Press
  • Publication date: 3/7/2000
  • Pages: 644
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Barriers to Perception: From a World of Interconnection to Fragmentation 11
The Creation of Biodiversity 22
The Dimensions of Life on Earth 30
The Sixth Extinction: How Large, How Soon, and Where? 46
The Meaning of Biodiversity Loss 63
The Loss of Population Diversity and Why It Matters 71
Keeping a Finger on the Pulse of Marine Biodiversity: How Healthy Is It? 84
Countryside Biogeography and the Provision of Ecosystem Services 104
Microbial Diversity and the Biosphere 117
Biodiversity, Classification, and Numbers of Species of Protists 130
Estimating the Extent of Fungal Diversity in the Tropics 156
Nematodes: Pervading the Earth and Linking All Life 176
Global Diversity of Mites 192
Biodiversity of Terrestrial Invertebrates in Tropical Africa: Assessing the Needs and Plan of Action 204
Global Diversity of Insects: The Problems of Estimating Numbers 213
The World Beneath Our Feet: Soil Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning 225
Natural Investment in Diversity: The Role of Biological Communities in Soil 242
Conservation Biology and the Preservation of Biodiversity: An Assessment 255
Conservation Genetics: Applying Molecular Methods of Maximize the Conservation of Taxonomic and Genetic Diversity 264
Application of Geospatial Information for Identifying Priority Areas for Biodiversity Conservation 276
Hawaii Biological Survey: Museum Resources In Support of Conservation 281
Building the Next-Generation Biological-Information Infrastructure 291
Nature Displaced: Human Population Trends and Projections and Their Meanings 303
Population Growth, Sustainable Development, and the Environment 315
Nonindigenous Species: A Global Threat to Biodiversity and Stability 325
Science and the Public Trust in a Full World: Function and Dysfunction in Science and the Biosphere 337
The Response of the International Scientific Community to the Challenge of Biodiversity 347
The Millenium Seed Bank at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 358
Charting the Biosphere: Building Global Capacity for Systematics Science 374
Science and Technology in the Convention on Biological Diversity 387
Ecology and the Knowledge Revolution 398
Biodiversity: A World Bank Perspective 413
Creating Cultural Diversity: Tropical Forests Transformed 420
Endangered Plants, Vanishing Cultures: Ethnobotany and Conservation 435
Religion and Sustainability 443
Reaching the Public: The Challenge of Communicating Biodiversity 455
Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC): A New Multi-Institutional Partnership to Prepare the Next Generation of Environmental Leaders 462
Natural Capitalism 471
Linking Science and Policy: A Research Agenda for Colombian Biodiversity 483
Sustainability and the Law: An Assessment of the Endangered Species Act 493
Government Policy and Sustainability of Biodiversity in Costa Rica 500
National Security, National Interest, and Sustainability 506
Biodiversity and Organizing for Sustainability in the United States Government 514
How to Grow a Wildland: The Gardenification of Nature 521
Measures to Conserve Biodiversity in Sustainable Forestry: The Rio Condor Project 530
Chemical Prospecting: The New Natural History 543
Conservation Medicine: An Emerging Field 551
How Countries with Limited Resources Are Dealing with Biodiversity Problems 557
Biodiversity and Sustainable Human Development: The Costa Rican Agenda 573
The National Biodiversity Information System of Mexico 586
Community Involvement and Sustainability: The Malpai Borderlands Effort 596
Index 605
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