The World According To Pimm: A Scientist Audits the Earth

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9780071374903: The World According To Pimm: A Scientist Audits the Earth

Take a globe-circling tour of our endangered planet with conservation biologist Stuart Pimm - who is taking stock and keeping score. We use 50 per cent of the world's freshwater supply. We consume 42 per cent of the world's plant growth. We are liquidating animals and plants 100 times faster than the natural rate of extinction. Such numbers should make it clear that the human impact on our planet has been, and continues to be, extreme and detrimental. Yet even after decades of awareness of our environmental peril, there remains passionate disagreement over what the problems are and how they should be remedied. Much of the impasse stems from the fact that the problems are difficult to quantify. How do we assess the impact of habitat loss on various species, when we haven't even counted them all?And just what factors go into that 42 per cent of biomass we are hungrily consuming? It is only through an understanding of the numbers that we will be able to break that impasse and come to agreement. Working on the front lines of conservation biology, Stuart Pimm is one of the pioneers whose work has put the 'science' in environmental science. In this book, he appoints himself 'investment banker of the global, biological accounts', checking the numbers gathered by tireless scientists in work that is always painstaking and often heartbreaking. Pimm explains the numerical results in lucid prose. With wit, passion, and candor, he reveals the importance of understanding where those numbers come from and what they mean. To do so, he takes the reader on a globe-circling tour of our beautiful, but weary, planet. With Pimm as our indomitable guide, we travel from the volcanic mountains and rainforests of Hawaii to the boreal forests of Siberia. We see a blue whale off the Pacific coast of Mexico, where the blue oceans are slowly turning to barren deserts.We go birdwatching high up in the leafy canopy of the Amazon, from which we can see the hundreds of smoke plumes busily working at deforestation. At times, the view looks rather grim. But Pimm is no Cassandra; he never preaches or scolds. Ever optimistic, this book presents a world filled with mysterious beauty, the infinite variety of nature, and an urgent hope that through an understanding of our planet's environmental past and present, we will be inspired to save it from future extinction. '[T]his book is unashamedly optimistic. It is a celebration of our spectacular and fascinating world. I have made no attempt to restrain my joy as I encounter its natural history and its peoples. By the time you read the epilogue you will know that our world is not doomed, it is not fatally wounded, but neither is it healthy. It needs attention...' - Stuart Pimm, from the Prologue.

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About the Author:

Stuart Pimm, Ph.D., is a professor of conservation biology at the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation at Columbia University in New York. He has been the recipient of a Pew Scholarship for Conservation and the Environment (in 1993) and an Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellowship (in 1999). Very active at the interface between conservation and policy, Pimm has been called upon to testify before both the House and Senate Committees on the re-authorization of the Endangered Species Act, and has been instrumental in the recent major initiative to restore the Florida Everglades. Pimm is the author of more than 150 scientific papers, as well as three books, and numerous popular articles and book reviews in such publications as New Scientist, The Sciences, Nature, and Science. He maintains a very active international lecturing schedule, and appears on television regularly, recently on such shows as ABC News with Peter Jennings, CNN, the Discover Channel, two program on PBS, TV Asahi (Japan), ABC (Australia), and elsewhere. Ed Wilson (of Harvard) and Pimm were the subjects of a BBC Horizon (appears in the USA as PBS's Nova) in 1996 entitled Nature's Numbers. Pimm's activities are routinely reported in the national press (twice on the front page of the New York Times in the last year) and throughout the world. On average, he is interviewed by the press several times each week.

From Publishers Weekly:

Calling himself "the investment banker of the global biological accounts," conservation biologist Pimm balances the raw numbers of what the earth produces against what humans take away annually, and, as an accountant might, quietly but insistently draws our attention to long-range projections. The numbers, he finds, do not quite add up. Pimm, who is a professor of conservation biology at Columbia University's Center for Environmental Research and Conservation and who publishes regularly in New Scientist, Nature and Science, is an advocate of conservation policy nationally and abroad, but he is not prone to moralizing. As he writes, "I will not hector you about having many children, driving a large car, eating meat," and yet he says that "the impacts I will describe already seriously degrade the lives of huge numbers of people." With clarity and humor, Pimm cites quantities, such as the one billion tons of plant growth human beings eat each year, the 35% of the oceans' continental shelf productivity they consume and the 60% of accessible freshwater runoff they utilize. Basing his argument on massive numbers like these, and on his own genial but forceful responses to them, Pimm makes a strong case for "ecology on a global scale." Readers reached by this book may just change their habits.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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