The idea of biodiversity: philosophies of paradise

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Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996 - Nature - 393 pages
3 Reviews
"At places distant from where you are, but also uncomfortably close," writes David Takacs, "a holocaust is under way. People are slashing, hacking, bulldozing, burning, poisoning, and otherwise destroying huge swaths of life on Earth at a furious pace." And a cadre of ecologists and conservation biologists has responded, vigorously promoting a new definition of nature: biodiversity--advocating it in Congress and on the Tonight Show; whispering it into the ears of foreign leaders; redefining the boundaries of science and politics, ethics and religion, nature and our ideas of nature. These scientists have infused the environmental movement with new focus and direction, but by engaging in such activities, they jeopardize the societal trust that allows them to be public spokespersons for nature in the first place. The Idea of Biodiversity analyzes what biodiversity represents to the biologists who operate in broader society on its behalf, drawing on in-depth interviews with the scientists most active today in the mission to preserve biodiversity, including Peter Raven, Thomas Lovejoy, Jane Lubchenco, and Paul Ehrlich. Takacs explores how and why these biologists shaped the concept of biodiversity and promoted it to society at large--examining their definitions of biodiversity; their opinions about spirituality and its role in scientific work; the notion of biodiversity as something of intrinsic value; and their views on biophilia, E. O. Wilson's idea that humans are genetically predisposed to love nature. Takacs also looks at the work of twentieth-century forerunners of today's conservation biologists--Aldo Leopold, Charles S. Elton, Rachel Carson, David Ehrenfeld--and points out their contributions to the current debates. He takes readers to Costa Rica, where a group of scientists is using biodiversity to remake nature and society. And in an extended section, he profiles the thoughts and work of E. O. Wilson. "When I'm asked, 'should we save this species orthat species, or this place or that place?' the answer is always 'Yes!' with an exclamation point. Because it's obvious. And if you ask me to justify it, then I switch into a more cognitive consciousness and can start giving you reasons, economic reasons, aesthetic reasons. They're all dualistic, in a sense. But the feeling that underlies it is that 'yes!' And that 'yes!' comes out of the affirmation of being part of it all, being part of this whole evolutionary process. And agreeing with Arne Naess that each species, each entity, should be allowed to continue its evolution and to live out its destiny... just do its thing, as we say. Why not? And the 'why not?' is there's too many people."--Michael E. Soule, from an interview in The Idea of Biodiversity "An important contribution, a first distanced examination of a critical, modern topic by a scholarly, honest broker."--E. O. Wilson, Harvard University

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User Review  - KeithAkers - LibraryThing

This book is about the philosophy of biodiversity. I got to about page 129 and then gave up. Here's why I quit but I'm giving it a "pretty good" review anyway.The book starts with a history of how the ... Read full review

Review: The Idea of Biodiversity: Philosophies of Paradise

User Review  - Cecilia Gonzalez - Goodreads

What is Biodiversity? This is a first attempt to write the history of how biodiversity came to be what it is today. And what it is? So far one thing is true, is the common concept that unites ... Read full review

Contents

Tensions at the Crossroads of Science Nature
1
The Making of Biodiversity
9
Why and Whence the Term Biodiversity7
41
Copyright

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About the author (1996)

David Takacs is assistant professor in the Department of Earth Systems Science and Policy at California State University at Monterey Bay.

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