The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth

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Overview

"John Kricher masterfully describes the ancient origins of the concept of a balance of nature and its unquestioned incorporation into the thinking of many ecologists and conservationists. This concept implies an overarching purpose or design in the natural world, making it inconsistent with our understanding of how evolution works. Kricher shows that we can understand and protect natural ecosystems better by rejecting the assumption that nature is a well-designed machine and accepting the true complexity created by numerous interacting species."—Robert Askins, Connecticut College

"This is a highly readable account of ecology, rich in substance, metaphor, and examples. The author's main goal is to puncture the cozy idea that nature is in a state of balance. While the concept of balance fitted the philosophy of some of the ancient Greeks and their intellectual descendants, John Kricher explains how it has repeatedly failed the test of empirical science. Nature, he shows, is much more interesting."—Peter R. Grant, Princeton University

"A deft and inviting tour of ecology and evolution, a book of revelation about the balance of nature that really counts, namely that between ourselves and the living planet. This is an appealing read that reveals the most important story of human history."—Thomas E. Lovejoy, president of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment

"Kricher's new book challenges our long-held belief in the balance of nature. Presenting fascinating evidence in a highly readable style, Kricher makes the case that no, there is no balance within nature, but yes, we need a sounder ethic that trumpets the urgency that we must save our environment—now!"—Herb Raffaele, United States Fish and Wildlife Service

"Kricher is an excellent storyteller and this is an important story to tell. I thoroughly enjoyed this little book. It is chock full of interesting ideas that challenge conventional wisdom. The Balance of Nature is a fun read throughout, and will appeal to a broad range of readers both within and outside the discipline."—Richard Karban, coauthor of How to Do Ecology

"Kricher dispels the popularly held notion that nature exists in some single, harmonious balance, and shows how, as a consequence, we need to change the way we view nature. His passion and breadth of understanding come through very clearly. The Balance of Nature is a charming and very readable book."—Oswald Schmitz, Yale University

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
The author conveys his message in a clear writing style without using highly technical concepts or terminology.
Environment and History
Kricher's book is of interest to environmental historians and historians of science not only on account of the information it contains, but also because within it there is so little of the scholarship of the history of the environmental sciences with which we, in the humanities and social sciences, are familiar.
— Jane Carruthers
Ecology
With The Balance of Nature, John Kricher has done us the favor of producing the book our non-ecological parents should read. In a scant 200 pages of accessible prose, Kricher weaves together three themes about which any literate citizen should be aware. . . . The Balance of Nature hits its mark. Buy a copy for your parents, your students, and your children today.
— Aaron M. Ellison
Environment and History - Jane Carruthers
Kricher's book is of interest to environmental historians and historians of science not only on account of the information it contains, but also because within it there is so little of the scholarship of the history of the environmental sciences with which we, in the humanities and social sciences, are familiar.
Ecology - Aaron M. Ellison
With The Balance of Nature, John Kricher has done us the favor of producing the book our non-ecological parents should read. In a scant 200 pages of accessible prose, Kricher weaves together three themes about which any literate citizen should be aware. . . . The Balance of Nature hits its mark. Buy a copy for your parents, your students, and your children today.
Choice . "Shmaefsky

The author conveys his message in a clear writing style without using highly technical concepts or terminology.
From the Publisher
"The author conveys his message in a clear writing style without using highly technical concepts or terminology."—B.R. Shmaefsky, Choice

"Kricher's book is of interest to environmental historians and historians of science not only on account of the information it contains, but also because within it there is so little of the scholarship of the history of the environmental sciences with which we, in the humanities and social sciences, are familiar."—Jane Carruthers, Environment and History

"With The Balance of Nature, John Kricher has done us the favor of producing the book our non-ecological parents should read. In a scant 200 pages of accessible prose, Kricher weaves together three themes about which any literate citizen should be aware. . . . The Balance of Nature hits its mark. Buy a copy for your parents, your students, and your children today."—Aaron M. Ellison, Ecology

Ecology

With The Balance of Nature, John Kricher has done us the favor of producing the book our non-ecological parents should read. In a scant 200 pages of accessible prose, Kricher weaves together three themes about which any literate citizen should be aware. . . . The Balance of Nature hits its mark. Buy a copy for your parents, your students, and your children today.
— Aaron M. Ellison

Environment and History

Kricher's book is of interest to environmental historians and historians of science not only on account of the information it contains, but also because within it there is so little of the scholarship of the history of the environmental sciences with which we, in the humanities and social sciences, are familiar.
— Jane Carruthers

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691138985
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 4/27/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 252
  • Sales rank: 992,424
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


John Kricher is the A. Howard Meneely Professor of Biology at Wheaton College. His books include "Galápagos: A Natural History" and "A Neotropical Companion" (both Princeton).
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Table of Contents

Preface ix
CHAPTER 1: Why It Matters 1
CHAPTER 2: Of What Purpose Are Mosquitoes? 8
CHAPTER 3: Creating Paradigms 20
CHAPTER 4: Ecology B.C. ("Before Charles") 40
CHAPTER 5: Ecology A.D. ("After Darwin") 53
CHAPTER 6: The Twentieth Century: Ecology Comes of Age 67
CHAPTER 7: A Visit to Bodie: Ecological Space and Time 84
CHAPTER 8: Ecology and Evolution: Process and Paradigm 97
CHAPTER 9: Be Glad to Be an Earthling 113
CHAPTER 10: Life Plays the Lottery 128
CHAPTER 11: Why Global Climate Is Like
New England Weather 140
CHAPTER 12: Taking It from the Top—or the Bottom 155
CHAPTER 13: F or the Love of Biodiversity (and Stable Ecosystems?) 170
CHAPTER 14: Facing Marley's Ghost 186
Epilogue 203
Acknowledgments 207
Notes 209
Index 229

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