Global change

Global change

Book reviews The Background of Ecology. Concept and Theory. By Robert P. McIntosh. Pp. 383. Cambridge University Press. 1985. f30.00 ($39.50). This bo...

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Book reviews The Background of Ecology. Concept and Theory. By Robert P. McIntosh. Pp. 383. Cambridge University Press. 1985. f30.00 ($39.50). This book is the latest in the ‘Cambridge Studies in Ecology’ series. The stated aim of the author is to provide a general, although not a wholly comprehensive. review of the origins, development, and current problems of ecology; I think he has generally been successful in achieving this objective. The book begins with a review of the emergence of ecology as a discipline from the background of nineteenth century natural history, biogeography, and physiology. Then comes a fairly detailed historical account of dynamic and community ecology and population ecology followed by two chapters which outline the development of ecosystem ecology and theoretical ecology from the 1920s to the present. The final chapter traces the links between ecology, conservation, and the environmental movement. These divisions are somewhat arbitrary and there is inevitably some overlap in content. Although concentrating mainly on AngloAmerican ecology this book is a detailed but readable account of the historical and philosophical aspects of the development of the subject. It contains many interesting quotations and amusing anecdotes. I found it quite enthralling and difficult to put aside. At f30, however, I doubt whether many will purchase a personal copy but it will be a valuable addition to the library. I hope it will be widely read by ecologists and biologists in general. M. S. Davies

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Life Sciences. Edited by A. Friday and D. S. Ingram. Pp. 432. Cambridge University Press. 1985. f25.00 ($45.00). This multiauthor volume attempts to cover biological sciences in just over 400 pages of double column print interrupted by many diagrams and photographs. Inevitably, the treatment is uneven; some chapters read like catalogues of species while others give good discussions. The first third, ‘Processes and organisation’, starts from cell structure and biochemistry, moves on to morphology and physiology of plants and animals and then tackles genetics, behaviour, and ecology. The middle third, ‘Environments’, concerns features and communities in seas, freshwaters, and on land and concludes with organisms as environments for parasites. Last comes ‘Evolution and the fossil record’, concluding with the recent history of fauna and flora and a brief classification: no 10, No. 1, 1986. Endeavour, New Series, Volume 0160-9327166 go.00 + so. 0 1986. Pergamon Press. Printed in Great Britain.


mention here of Lamarck, Wallace, or cladistics. A reader knowing no biology would need to work through from the beginning because later sections build on ideas and terms used earlier; there is no glossary. Professional biologists will probably criticise the treatment of those areas they know but may find other chapters stimulating. This encyclopaedia would probably be most useful to someone with about O-level biology who could dip into and understand the ideas in any section that looked interesting. Margaret E. Variey Global Change. Edited by T. F. Malone and J. G. Roederer. Pp. 572. Cambridge University Press. 1985. f35.00 ($59.50). Many global problems can be seen as a result of modern science and technology being harnessed to outdated attitudes, policies, and rivalries; e.g., those related to anthropogenic environmental changes, nonrenewable resource depletion, ‘NorthSouth’ disparities, and the escalating potential for catastrophic war. Any coordinated attempt to solve them evidently remains outside the scope of contemporary diplomacy. Yet grounds for optimism exist. The ICSU symposium proceedings ‘Global Change’ illustrate the growing and increasingly important international cooperation between scientists, especially through the machinery of the non-governmental organization of ICSU and of the UN agencies. However, they also illustrate the need for improved coordination and liaison, one role envisaged for UNEP (p. 329). The number of relevant organizations and inevitably over-lapping programmes are indicated by the bewildering array of abbreviations and acronyms cited. The symposium was essentially concerned with worldwide monitoring and research as a vital step towards an effective system of forecasting and planetary management, and with the newlyproposed International Geosphere - Biosphere Programme (IGBP). Forty contributions from fifteen countries (including China and the USSR) also discuss the immensely complex interactions between planetary rotation, insolation. atmosphere, ocean, land, and biomass; and objectives, relevant timescales, methodology, and priorities for the new IGBP. A need is also indicated for more adequate scientific evidence than that implied by some recent publications before global trends and their possible climatic or ecological significance can be usefully quantified, e.g., in relation to atmospheric CO? and ozone levels. The proceedings in loto provide authoritative and informative, but not light, reading for the non-specialist. F. P. W. Winteringham The European Energy Challenge. East and West. By George W. Hoffman. Pp. 207. Duke University Press, London. 1985. f34.75. It is rare to find a treatment of such an extensive topic which is so thorough, well-

informed, and neatly constructed. Today’s energy problems in both East and West Europe are analysed with their origin in the oil shocks of 1973/4 and 1979. Trends in energy consumption and the Continent’s endowment of energy resources are reviewed with the aid of many useful tables and maps. One chapter considers what scope exists for improvement in end-use efficiency and conservation programmes in various countries, paying particular attention to the problem posed by existing infrastructure to fuel substitution. The growing importance of the USSR as a European energy supplier is discussed in some detail, being a particularly welcome addition to the literature. Another very useful discussion which benefits from a European context is the problem of security of energy supplies where such options as an international highpressure gas grid and a strategic European reserve are considered. The only complaint is the poor index. David Collingridge Aspects of Matter in Science Today. Discussions with Emile No&l. Translated and edited by W. J. Duffin. Pp. 196. W. J. Duffin, North Humberside. 7985. Paperback f3.95. State of the World. A Worldwatch Institute Report on Progress Toward a Sustainable Society. Edited by Linda Starke. Pp. 301. W. Norton, New York. Distributed by Wiley, Chichester. Cloth f 18.95 ($22.00), Paperback f7.95 ($9.50). M. Noel describes his aim in compiling this discussion volume as ‘to try to understand the laws regulating what is commonly called matter, using neither specialist jargon nor mathematical language; to try to define the limits of the known and the knowable; and to find out what the discourse of science can bring us and what must not be expected from it’. The final product, based on transcripts of a radio series broadcast by FranceCulture, satisfied these requirements, but in a somewhat systematic manner. Although individual chapters focus on individual interviewees and topics (elementary particles, the origin of matter, anti-matter, plasmas, the technology of materials .) some are tightly structured and others discursive. One is heavily foot-noted and has a similarlysized appendix ‘for the non-specialist reader’. All of the expected information is there, in other words, but it does not emerge in the best shape or form. Although admirably up-to-date, and with unusual breadth provided by one historian and one philosopher, this is not a book to be recommended to those wanting a clear and enticing primer. ‘The threats to progress that the world faces today are of such immense proportions that people from all walks of life will have to participate in solving them,’ writes Lester Brown, concluding this latest survey from the Worldwatch Institute. Covering the same basic issues as the first report last year, it adopts several different perspectives - in dealing with population-induced climatic