The Planetary Gamble We Can't Afford to Lose
By (author) Stephen H. Schneider
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Laboratory Earth by Stephen H. Schneider
Book DescriptionLaboratory Earth taps the relevant knowledge from physical, biological, and social sciences needed to study the planet holistically. This so-called Earth Systems Science fosters a new way to understand the Earth and our roles as inhabitants, with the purpose of building solutions to the bewildering global environment and overdevelopment.Educational, business, health, and governmental organizations often dissect the world into narrow but highly specialized disciplines--economics, ecology, cardiology, meteorology, glaciology, or political science, to name a few. But real world problems, like urban sprawl, public health, poverty, toxic waste, economic development, the ozone hole, or global warming, do not fit neatly into disciplinary boxes. However, author Stephen Schneider asserts that these contemporary issues must be viewed as systems of interconnected subelements. This is especially true for global environmental problems, since they arise from increasing numbers of people demanding higher standards of living and willing to use the cheapest available technologies to pursue these growth-oriented goals, even if the unintended byproducts include land degradation, toxic pollutants, species extinctions, or global climate change. To first understand and then solve such problems, we must learn to view the Earth and our socioeconomic engine as one integrated system.Schneider, who in the 1970s predicted global warming would become "demonstrable" by the turn of the century, chooses that debate to illustrate how this twenty-first century Earth Systems Science approach works, introducing us to the sharp controversies and highly visible debates among climatologists, ecologists, economists, industrialists, and political interests over the seriousness and solutions to the climate change crisis. He begins with a fascinating journey to the beginning of geologic time on Earth and traces from there the coevolution of climate and life over the next four billion years. Along the way we learn about the Gaia Hypothesis, the demise of the dinosaurs, and the likelihood of an impending ice age.Schneider traces our climatic history not only from the beginning and up to the twentieth century, but deep into the twenty-first as well. He depicts the next one hundred years as a potentially perilous period for climate and life--unless we citizens of Earth recognize and then work to control the unintended global scale experiment we are foisting on ourselves and all other life on "Laboratory Earth." This "lab" is not built of glass, wires, and tubes, but of insects, soils, air, oceans, birds, trees, and people. While no honest scientist can claim to have clairvoyant vision into the twenty-first century, Schneider optimistically demonstrates that enough is already known to command our attention and to insure that the juggernaut of human impacts on Earth doesn't turn into a gamble we can't afford to lose.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9780465072804
(203mm x 135mm x 14mm)
Imprint: Basic Books
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Publish Date: 11-Sep-1998
Country of Publication: United States
Books By Author Stephen H. Schneider
Patient from Hell, Paperback (November 2006)» View all books by Stephen H. Schneider
After patients are diagnosed with a dreaded disease, they learn two daunting facts: that no doctor has all the answers, and that there are no answers. This book is both the author's own story of working with his doctors to get the best care possible, and also a critique of the flawed system under which most doctors must practice.
US Kirkus Review » The beauty of environmental complexity is lucidly displayed in this Cook's Tour of grand earthly processes. Schneider (Biological Sciences/Stanford; Global Warming, 1989, etc.) thinks globally and suggests that we do, too, for if we don't look at the big picture when fashioning development decisions, if we don't 'fess up to our ignorance when it comes to the global consequences of our environmental behavior, if we continue to allow public-policy polemicists to exploit "that uncertainty as an excuse to delay action that could lower risks," then what we are taking is a planetary gamble with the biological riches of the earth - a risk that terrifies Schneider. To give his readers a hint at the interrelatedness of our environmental system, he uses climatic flux as a running example, poring over some of the theories and conjectures that have been proposed to explain the changes, refreshing memories that have forgotten the hydrologic and element cycles, laying bare the likes of the Milankovitch mechanism (variations in Earth orbit equals axial shifts equals Ice Age), and explaining how climate impinges on keystone species, population thresholds, biodiversity in general. The beauty of this book lies in its simple, fluid explication of nature's crazy-wild fandango. But Schneider also has a modest proposal to make: Why don't we, as a species, pause for a moment, take stock of potential consequences, become collectively less destructive, and "rethink a global-scale value system that puts human numerical and economic growth ahead of all other competing values"? That would require an "informed public with the scientific knowledge and political will to make a difference," Schneider admits, but he's not only a talented writer with a supple ranging imagination, he's also an incurable optimist. Earth could use more nimble old souls like Schneider, with his commonsensical voice. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Stephen H. Schneider
Stephen S. Schneider is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. He was honored in 1992 with a MacArthur Fellowship for his ability to integrate and interpret the results of global climate research through public lectures, seminars, classroom teaching, environmental assessment committees, media appearances, Congressional testimony, and research collaboration with colleagues. He has authored The Genesis Strategy: Climate and Global Survival; The Coevolution of Climate and Life; Global Warming: Are We Entering the Greenhouse Century?; Scientists on Gaia; and over two hundred scientific papers, reviews, and editorials.
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