DISCORDANT HARMONIES: A New Ecology for the Twenty-First Century by Daniel B. Botkin

DISCORDANT HARMONIES: A New Ecology for the Twenty-First Century

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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.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1990
ISBN: 0195074696
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press