Discordant Harmonies

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

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Global warming, acid rain, the depletion of the rainforests, the polluting of our atmosphere and oceans - the threats to our environment are growing at an alarming pace. It's certainly easy to indulge the kinds of desperate, hand-wringing environmentalism that point to problems without suggesting solutions. Thankfully, however, Daniel Botkin is able to pinpoint areas of concern and suggest potential cures. In his groundbreaking study of environmental issues, Discordant Harmonies, Botkin suggests that the real barrier to solving the crisis in the environment is not lack of scientific knowledge but the persistance of mythological and metaphoric ways of perceiving the natural world. A seasoned scientist (and pioneer of the use of computers to predict ecological trends), Botkin draws on some revealing case-studies - of predator/prey relationships; of forests evolving over centuries; of species nearing extinction; of examples of well-intentioned mistakes in conservation - in order to illuminate his argument. Radical, stimulating, and insightful, Discordant Harmonies suggests a manifesto for environmentalism in the coming decade and beyond.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 254 pages
  • 147.32 x 213.36 x 17.78mm | 317.51g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • halftones, line drawings
  • 0195074696
  • 9780195074697
  • 650,041

About Daniel B. Botkin

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.show more

Table of contents

Acknowledgements; PART I: THE CURRENT DILEMMA: A view from a marsh: myths and facts about nature; Why the elephants died: breakdown in the management of living resources; Moose in the wilderness: stability and the growth of populations; Oaks in New Jersey: machine age forests; PART II: BACKGROUND TO CRISIS: Mountain lions and mule deer: nature as Divine Order; Earth as a fellow creature: organic views of nature; In Mill Hollow: nature as the great machine; PART III: EVOLVING IMAGES: The forest in the computer: new metaphors for nature; Within the moose's stomach: nature as the biosphere; Fire in the forest: managing living resources; PART IV: RESOLUTIONS FOR OUR TIME: Winds on Mauna Loa: how to approach managing the biospehere; The moon in the nautilus shell: nature in the 21st century; Postscript: A guide to action; Chapter notes; Key concepts and terms.show more

Review Text

According to ecologist Botkin, solutions to our environmental problems have been hindered by outmoded myths and metaphors for perceiving nature. Historically, he says, the earth has been viewed as a divine creation, an organic fellow creature (the preindustrial view), or a machine (the "scientific" concept, familiar in the "clockwork" analogy of the last few centuries). Both the divine and the mechanical images have supported beliefs that nature is prefectly ordered and perfectly stable, and thus best left alone to regulate itself. But, Botkin says, ecosystems cannot be isolated from disturbance - and, in any case, ecosystems at every level, from that inside a moose's gut to the global, are by nature dynamic, complex, diverse, and ever-changing To accommodate these qualities we need a new perspective, blending the old organic metaphor with a new technological metaphor derived from computers and the space age. We also need to recognize our unavoidable Impact on nature and thus to take a deliberate, active role in conservation and management. Specifically, Botkin suggests setting aside land for different kinds of wilderness and conservation areas, as well as appropriating money for monitoring ecological systems and for education in environmental management. Botkin's citation of particular cases from the field - many of them examples of well-meaning mismanagement - are interesting studies in themselves and telling illustrations that give authority to his argument. Unfortunately, this may be of incidental interest in a nation where public lands are being sold off for exploitation - and where environmental study is so often a euphemism for inaction. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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38 ratings
3.89 out of 5 stars
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3 16% (6)
2 13% (5)
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