The Ecology Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained
As a small child, I was fascinated by nature—birds, butterflies, plants, reptiles, fossils, rivers, weather, and much else. My youthful passions set me on the path to being a life-long naturalist, and to working as an environmentalist, studying the natural world and promoting action for its conservation. I have worked as a field ornithologist, writer, campaigner, policy advocate, and environmental advisor. All of these diverse interests and activities have, however, been linked by a single theme: ecology. Ecology is a vast subject, embracing the many disciplines needed to understand the relationships that exist between different living things, and the physical worlds of air, water, and rock within which they are embedded. From the study of soil microorganisms to the role of pollinators, and from research into the water cycle to investigating Earth’s climate system, ecology involves many specialist areas. It also unites many strands of science, including zoology, botany, mathematics, chemistry, and physics, as well as some aspects of social science—especially economics—while at the same time raising profound philosophical and ethical questions. Because of the fundamental ways in which the human world depends on healthy natural systems, some of the most important political issues of our age are ecological ones. They include climate change, the effects of ecosystem damage, the disappearance of wildlife, and the depletion of resources, including fish stocks, freshwater, and soils. All these ecological changes have implications for people and are increasingly pressing. Considering the huge importance of ecology for our modern world, and the many threads of thought and ideas that must be woven to gain an understanding of the subject, I am delighted that Dorling Kindersley decided to produce The Ecology Book, setting out the key concepts that have helped shape our understanding of how Earth’s incredible natural systems function. In the pages that follow readers will also discover something about the history of ecological concepts, the leading thinkers, and the different perspectives from which they approached the questions they sought to answer. One thing that sets this book apart is the manner in which the rich, memorable, and attractive content is presented. A huge body of information and insight is effectively conveyed by clear layout, graphics, illustrations, and quotes, enabling readers to quickly achieve an understanding of many important ecological ideas and the people behind them: James Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis, Norman Myers’s warnings about impending mass extinction, and Rachel Carson’s work to expose the effects of toxic pesticides among them. The diverse body of information found in the pages that follow could not be more important. For while the headlines and popular debate suggest it is politics, technology, and economics that are the vital forces shaping our common future, it is in the end ecology that is the most important context determining societies’ prospects, and indeed the future of civilization itself. I hope you find The Ecology Book to be an enlightening overview of what is not only the most important subject, but also the most interesting.
Tony Juniper CBE Environmentalist
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|January 30, 2020|
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