Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty-First Century

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Oxford University Press, 1992 - Medical - 241 pages
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Global warming, acid rain, the depletion of forests, the polluting of our atmosphere and oceans--the threats to our environment are numerous, raising justifiable concern among most of us and genuine alarm in some. But as scientist Daniel Botkin argues in this provocative book, our ability to solve these problems is limited--not by our scientific knowledge--but by the age-old myths and metaphors that shape our perception of the natural world. Indeed, our beliefs about nature have fallen well behind our knowledge.
Daniel Botkin is a seasoned scientist. He has spent three decades in the field studying the changes and interactions of forests and animal species. In the 1970s he pioneered the use of computers to predict ecological trends. Now, in Discordant Harmonies, he combines his considerable expertise with the well-honed eye of the nature writer and a philosopher's sense of how ideas shape our perceptions of reality to take us on a marvelous guided tour of the natural world. His method is to introduce a problem in our beliefs about nature by giving us a fascinating case study: of predator-prey relationships, of forests evolving over centuries, of species nearing extinction, of the ways our "protection" of nature has had surprising--and often disappointing--results. Botkin's revealing case studies also highlight controversial present-day issues--like controlled burning in national forests, fishing and hunting quotas, and policy-making for management of natural resources. He looks at each of these cases in the light of past thinking and current research, revealing how old myths often blind us to the new technology and to the ways of thinking we need to solve our environmental problems. Above all, Botkin is concerned with redefining the relationship between human beings and nature, so that our needs can be met and the intricate systems of nature can persist.
Whether discussing moose herds on Isle Royale or Yosemite's famous Mariposa Grove of Sequoias, Botkin writes vividly and insightfully about nature, challenging us to rethink some of our most cherished notions. Anyone who is concerned about the environment will find much here to ponder as well as the pleasure of meeting a stimulating and thoughtful mind at work.

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About the author (1992)

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Daniel B. Botkin is on the faculty of the University of California, Santa Barbara. He won the 1991 Mitchell International Prize for Sustainable Development for his work on the environment.

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