What is Natural?

What is Natural? : Coral Reef Crisis

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During the late 1960s and 1970s, massive herds of poisonous crown-of-thorns starfish suddenly began to infest coral reef communities around the world, leaving in their wake devastation comparable to a burnt-out rainforest. In What is Natural?, Jan Sapp both examines this ecological catastrophe and captures the intense debate among scientists about what caused the crisis, and how it should be handled. The crown-of-thorns story takes readers on tropical expeditions around the world, and into both marine laboratories and government committees, where scientists rigorously search for answers to the many profound questions surrounding this event. Were these fierce starfish outbreaks the kind of manmade disaster heralded by such environmentalists as Rachel Carson in Silent Spring? Indeed, discussions of the cause of the starfish plagues have involved virtually every environmental issue of our time - over-fishing, pesticide use, atomic testing, rain forest depletion, and over-population - but many marine biologists maintain that the epidemic is a natural feature of coral-reef life, an ecological "balance of nature" that should not to be tampered with until we know the scientific truth of the crisis. But should we search for the scientific truth before taking action? And what if an environmental emergency cannot wait for a rigorous scientific search for "the truth?" The starfish plagues are arguably one of most mysterious ecological phenomena of this century. Through the window of this singlular event, What is Natural lucidly illustrates the complexity of environmental issues while probing the most fundamental questions about the relationship between man and nature.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 161.3 x 241.6 x 25.1mm | 585.75g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • 12 halftones, 1 line drawing
  • 0195123646
  • 9780195123647

About Jan Sapp

Jan Sapp is a Professor of the History of Science at Atkinson College, York University in Canada. He has written two other books for Oxford: Evolution by Assciation (1994) and Beyond the Gene (1987).show more

Review quote

'...contents of this book are well organized and extremely well researched...Like a good detective novel it keeps you moving from one page to the next as it explores the interactions of those involved in resolving the problem-in one way or the other.' Journal of Experimental Marine Ecology '...The tale of the crown-of-thorns appears in his meticulously reserached blow-by-blow account of his quest in What Is Natural? The result? The best science whodunnit I have ever read...This fascinating book includes thumbnail sketches of a couple of generations of marine scientists, and a wonderful, detailed account of the environmental movement's growing pains...Apart from being a damned good read, What Is Natural? is a poignant history of humanity's most troubled times.' * David Bellamy, New Scientist, 3 July 1999 *show more

Table of contents

Introduction ; 1. Green Island ; 2. Guam ; 3. The War of the Worlds ; 4. Under Capricorn ; 5. Crown-of Thorns Inquisition ; 6. A Tree Fell in the Forest... ; 7. Knowledge and Action ; 8. Oceans Apart ; 9. Remote Control ; 10. Complexity and Stability ; 11. Cyclical Outcries ; 12. Cross Roads ; 13. Coral Bleaching and Global Warming ; 14. Cassandra and the Sea Starshow more

Rating details

9 ratings
3.55 out of 5 stars
5 22% (2)
4 33% (3)
3 22% (2)
2 22% (2)
1 0% (0)
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