THE LIVING PLANET: A Portrait of the Earth by David Attenborough
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THE LIVING PLANET: A Portrait of the Earth

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Life on Earth was Attenborough's justly acclaimed description of the evolution of plants and animals, as handsome a text and as showy a bit of BBC-TV on location as you'll find. The present work is a sequel: not life as it developed, but life as it now exists in its myriad forms on the planet. The book is thus a paean to the dynamism of life in interaction with changes in geography and climate. Chapter 1, ""The Furnaces of the Earth,"" deals with volcanoes and the subterranean forces that have built mountains and given birth to the volcanic islands. From there we go to ""The Frozen World,"" to examine the variations between life at the North and South Poles. Then the chapters march majestically across the planetary surface: from the poles to the tundra, to the northern forests, to the jungle, the grasslands, the deserts. Fresh water and shore life come next, followed by a chapter describing the life-forms that have developed on isolated islands: the Galàpagos, Australia, New Zealand, Madagascar. After a chapter on ocean life, we arrive finally at ""New Worlds""--where Attenborough deals with the impact of human society on planetary life. The cautionary tale is told of Peru's guanay bird, a phenomenal producer of guano that fertilized the coastal waters--leading to the abundance of shoal fish and the bigger fish that fed on them. Then along came chemical fertilizers and the crash of the guano market, followed by the harvesting of the shoal fish--and, within a few years, the near-destruction of the shoals themselves, not to mention the guanay birds. Attenborough writes a suitably clear, straightforward prose--but what distinguishes the volume--like its predecessor--are the abundant and splendid color photographs on almost every page.

Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 1984
Publisher: Little, Brown