The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth

The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth

by John Kricher
     
 

"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

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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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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691138985
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
04/27/2009
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
252
Sales rank:
506,927
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.80(d)

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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