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The Barren Promise of Genetic Engineering
In 2001 the Human Genome Project announced that it had successfully mapped the entire genetic content of human DNA. Scientists, politicians, theologians, and pundits speculated about what would follow, conjuring everything from nightmare scenarios of state-controlled eugenics to the hope of engineering disease-resistant newborns. As with debates surrounding stem-cell research, the seemingly endless possibilities of genetic engineering will continue to influence public opinion and policy into the foreseeable future. Beyond Biotechnology: The Barren Promise of Genetic Engineering distinguishes between the hype and reality of this technology and explains the nuanced and delicate relationship between science and nature. Authors Craig Holdrege and Steve Talbott evaluate the current state of genetic science and examine its potential applications, particularly in agriculture and medicine, as well as the possible dangers. The authors show how the popular view of genetics does not include an understanding of the ways in which genes actually work together in organisms. Simplistic and reductionist views of genes lead to unrealistic expectations and, ultimately, disappointment in the results that genetic engineering actually delivers. The authors explore new developments in genetics, from the discovery of “non-Darwinian” adaptative mutations in bacteria to evidence that suggests that organisms are far more than mere collections of genetically driven mechanisms. While examining these issues, the authors also answer vital questions that get to the essence of genetic interaction with human biology: Does DNA “manage” an organism any more than the organism manages its DNA? Should genetically engineered products be labeled as such? Do the methods of the genetic engineer resemble the centuries-old practices of animal husbandry? Written for lay readers, Beyond Biotechnology is an accessible introduction to the complicated issues of genetic engineering and its potential applications. In the unexplored space between nature and laboratory, a new science is waiting to emerge. Technology-based social and environmental solutions will remain tenuous and at risk of reversal as long as our culture is alienated from the plants and animals on which all life depends.
Fulfilling the Promise
Gaylord Nelson is known and respected throughout the world as a founding father of the modern environmental movement and creator of one of the most successful and influential public awareness campaigns ever undertaken on behalf of global stewardship: Earth Day.
Now in his eighties, Nelson delivers a timely and urgent message with the same eloquence with which he has articulated the nation’s environmental ills through the decades. He details the planet’s most critical concerns—from species and habitat losses to global climate changes and population growth. In outlining his strategy for planetary health, he inspires citizens to reassert the environment as a top priority.
A book for anyone who cares deeply about our environment and wants to know what we can and must do now to save it, Beyond Earth Day is a classic guide by one of the natural world’s great defenders.
The Emergence of Ecosystem Science
In Big Ecology, David C. Coleman documents his historically fruitful ecological collaborations in the early years of studying large ecosystems in the United States. As Coleman explains, the concept of the ecosystem—a local biological community and its interactions with its environment—has given rise to many institutions and research programs, like the National Science Foundation’s program for Long Term Ecological Research. Coleman’s insider account of this important and fascinating trend toward big science takes us from the paradigm of collaborative interdisciplinary research, starting with the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 1957, through the International Biological Program (IBP) of the late 1960s and early 1970s, to the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) programs of the 1980s.
An Introduction, Third Edition
Originally published in 1979, Geraldine Ellis Watson’s Big Thicket Plant Ecology is now back in print. This updated edition explores the plant biology, ecology, geology, and environmental regions of the Big Thicket National Preserve. After decades of research on the Big Thicket, Watson concluded that the Big Thicket was unique for its biological diversity, due mainly to interactions of geology and climate. A visitor in the Big Thicket could look in four different directions from one spot and view scenes typical of the Appalachians, the Florida Everglades, a southwestern desert, or the pine barrens of the Carolinas. Watson covers the ecological and geological history of the Big Thicket and introduces its plant life, from longleaf pines and tupelo swamps to savannah wetlands and hardwood flats. “This is the work on the plant biology of the Big Thicket.”—Pete A.Y. Gunter, author of The Big Thicket
The Politics of Representation in Birdwatching Field Guides
From meadows to marshlands, seashores to suburbs, field guides help us identify many of the things we find outdoors: plants, insects, mammals, birds. In these texts, nature is typically represented, both in words and images, as ordered, clean, and untouched by human technology and development. This preoccupation with species identification, however, has produced an increasingly narrow view of nature, a “binocular vision,” that separates the study of individual elements from a range of larger, interconnected environmental issues. In this book, Spencer Schaffner reconsiders this approach to nature study by focusing on how birds are presented in field guides. Starting with popular books from the late nineteenth century and moving ultimately to the electronic guides of the current day, Binocular Vision contextualizes birdwatching field guides historically, culturally, and in terms of a wide range of important environmental issues. Schaffner questions the assumptions found in field guides to tease out their ideological workings. He argues that the sanitized world represented in these guides misleads readers by omitting industrial landscapes and so-called nuisance birds, leaving users of the guides disconnected from environmental degradation and its impact on bird populations. By putting field guides into direct conversation with concerns about species conservation, environmental management, the human alteration of the environment, and the problem of toxic pollution, Binocular Vision is a field guide to field guides that takes a novel perspective on how we think about and interact with the world around us.
Learning the Lessons in a Seasonal Dry Forest
The beautiful tropical dry forest of northwest Costa Rica, with its highly seasonal rainfall and diversely vegetated landscape, is disappearing even more rapidly than Costa Rica's better-known rain forest, primarily because it has been easier to convert to agriculture. This book, based on more than thirty years of study, offers the first comprehensive look at the ecology, biodiversity, and conservation status of this endangered and fragile region. The contributors, from Costa Rica, Britain, Mexico, and the United States, and representing the fields of ecology, environmental education, policy, and the law, examine the major plant and animal groups living in the dry forest and present the first technical evaluation of Costa Rica's conservation efforts.
As they assess the status of their area of specialty in the dry forest, the contributors also look beyond this particular region to show how its plants and animals are ecologically and evolutionarily connected to other geographic areas in Costa Rica and Central America. Their chapters cover topics such as watershed and coastal management, plant phenology, pollination, insects, birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. They also consider the socioeconomic, policy, legal, and political aspects of biodiversity conservation, giving the volume a wide-ranging perspective and making a unique contribution to our knowledge of the tropical dry forest. The book concludes with an important synthesis of the contributors' recommendations on future directions, policies, and actions that will better conserve biodiversity in Costa Rica and other neotropical forests as well.
In the last thirty years, the Upper Texas Coast has become a “must go” destination for birders around the globe. This book will serve as an essential companion to the customary field guide and pair of binoculars for all visitors to Houston, High Island, Galveston, Freeport, or any of the area’s other exciting birding spots. It also places the birdlife of the region, a seven-county area with a larger bird list than forty-three states, into historical and ecological contexts. Authors Eubanks, Behrstock, and Weeks—all recognized authorities on the migrant and resident birds of this region—present a thorough introduction to the area’s history, physiography, and avifauna. Then, in generous discussions of bird families and species, they synthesize years of records, tracking the comings and goings of more than 480 birds and incorporating their own lifetimes of experience to create an “ornithological mosaic” of lasting significance.