Nature and Environmental Book Reviews

Short List of Best Nature and Environmental Books



Conservation of Natural Resources

by David Yarian, Ph.D.

Watchlist 2007, the Audobon Society’s recent report on the welfare of birds in America, reports that nearly a quarter of the 700 bird species in America are threatened, usually by direct human activity, like development and gas and oil production.

According to Callum Roberts in his book The Unnatural History of the Sea, current stocks of cod in the North Atlantic are less than 1/3 of one percent of the population of these fish before Europeans came to the New World. Scientists report that the oceans of the world are vast deserts, with staggering loss of species and populations of marine life due to overfishing.

In California, over 15% of energy consumption is used for water management alone -– pumping, storing and transporting increasingly scarce water to cities and farms.

Deforestation is a pressing global issue. More than half of all mature tropical forests have been felled, and the pace is increasing year by year as population growth leads to clearing more land for agriculture.

Between 1990 and 2005 Nigeria lost some 79% of its old-growth forests. Haiti retains only 1% of its forestland, leading some to refer to it as “a Caribbean desert.” Unless significant measures are taken, by 2030 only ten percent of tropical forests will remain, with another ten percent in a degraded condition.

Over half of the Earth’s land surface has been transformed due to human activity, resulting in significant habitat loss, environmental degradation (erosion, siltation, pollution, drought, floods, climate change) and extinctions of thousands of species. Almost no terrestrial ecoregion (there are 867) has been spared from the onslaught of human consumption.

Conservation of our planetary heritage – the land, the water, and the living things which occupy this biosphere – is of pressing urgency. The books recommended in this section on Conservation address the theory and practice of conservation and ecosystem preservation and restoration.

They are calls to action and reports of encouraging successes. Many contain vital proposals for immediate action that can make a difference. Paul Hawken’s Blessed Unrest calls our attention to the fact that the current worldwide environmentalist movement is “the largest movement in the world!” It’s not a moment too soon.