Planetary Overload: Global Environmental Change and the Health of the Human Species

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...lucid and convincing...this is a book with built-in appeal to epidemiologists...inviting, informing, and enabling us to face and begin to be effectively involved in the strategies for the future of our neighborhoods, our countries, and our species." American Journal of Epidemiology

"...well articulated and argued...an excellent basic framework--ecological, evolutionary and historical--of the human species and our social and economic activities. This alone makes the book an excellent addition to the literature. Planetary Overload is a thought-provoking, excellent addition to the literature on global environmental health issues for medical and public health students as well as for practicing environmental and health professionals." Medicine and Global Survival

"...the book is interesting, readable, and thought provoking." Bill D. Roebuck, International Environmental Affairs

"...skillfully written: an accomplished, eclectic book which draws fruitfully on historical, biological, ecological, and epidemiological knowledge...a very worthwhile book...challenging and erudite and very worth reading..." International Journal of Epidemiology

"The scholarly journey undertaken by A.J. McMicheal in this book is profound, broad and a bold attempt to shift public-health theory and practice onto firmer ecological ground...A strength of this book is the way the author places environmental and public-health issues in an historical and geographical context...it forces the reader to think of the interconnectdedness of natural systems, and the complex and perhaps unpredictable effects on human health that disturbances in these inter-linked systems may have." Aleck Ostry, Annals

"In discussing a variety of environmental threats, the book does a good job of exploring many important issues in a single work." Kristin Shrader-Frechette, Quarterly Review of Biology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521441384
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1993
  • Series: Canto Book Series
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 8.03 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Table of Contents

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.
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