The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth

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Overview

The idea of a balance of nature has been a dominant part of Western philosophy since before Aristotle, and it persists in the public imagination and even among some ecologists today. In this lively and thought-provoking book, John Kricher demonstrates that nature in fact is not in balance, nor has it ever been at any stage in Earth's history. He explains how and why this notion of a natural world in balance has endured for so long, and he shows why, in these times of extraordinary human influence on the planet's ecosystems, it is critical that we accept and understand that evolution is a fact of life, and that ecology is far more dynamic than we ever imagined.

The Balance of Nature traces the fascinating history of the science of ecology and evolutionary biology, from the discipline's early innovators to the advent of Darwin and evolution, to the brilliant and inquisitive scientific minds of today. Blending insights and entertaining stories from his own remarkable life in science, Kricher reveals how evolution is a powerful engine that drives ecological change, how nature is constantly in flux and, in effect, quite naturally out of balance—and how notions to the contrary are misguided and ultimately hazardous to us all.

The Balance of Nature forcefully argues that an understanding of the dynamic nature of ecology and evolution is essential to formulating policies of environmental ethics to guide humanity toward a more responsible stewardship of our planet's ecosystems.

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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: 708,291
  • 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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