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The human species faces a new threat to its health—perhaps to its survival. Our burgeoning numbers, the spread of technology, and our conspicuous consumption are overloading Earth's capacity to replenish and repair itself. Taking a unique perspective, Planetary Overload forcefully points out the consequences to human health of ongoing degradation of Earth's ecosystems. In a broad-based, accessible analysis, A.J. McMichael examines current ecological disruptions—land degradation, ozone depletion, temperature increases, and loss of genetic diversity through the extinction of species, among others—and compellingly demonstrates their potentially disastrous results, including food shortages, new and intensified disease patterns, rising seas, mass refugee problems, and cancers, blindness, and immune suppression from increased ultraviolet radiation. While other books on the subject analyze only the environmental impact of these problems, McMichael takes his analysis to an entirely new and disturbing extreme: he relates each of these insidious processes back to its ultimate impact on human health. He thoroughly considers these problems—and their scientific uncertainties—within a broad evolutionary, biological, social, and economic context. He also explores the underlying problems contributing to environmental breakdown, especially the relations between the world's rich and poor. This eloquent and alarming book will be of intense interest to environmentalists, public health professionals, policy makers, environmental studies and human ecology scholars, and anyone wishing a lucid, rational assessment of today's pressing ecological concerns. A. J. McMichael is the chair of the Australian Government's Environmental Health Committee and the co-author of The LS Factor: Lifestyle and Health (Penguin, 1987).
This book contains black-and-white illustrations.
Preface; Introduction; 1. First things; 2. The ecological framework; 3. The health of populations; 4. System overload: ancient and modern; 5. Population increase, poverty and health; 6. Greenhouse warming and climate change; 7. The thinning ozone layer; 8. Soil and water: loaves and fishes; 9. Biodiversity: forests, food and pharmaceuticals; 10. The growth of cities; 11. Impediments I: conceptual blocks; 12. Impediments II: relationships; 13. The way ahead; Glossary; Index.