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Title: Essential Environment - the science behind the stories. 2e.
Author(s): Jay Withgott and Scott Brennan
Date of Publication: 2007 Publisher: Pearson
Pages:xxi + 390 ISBN: 0 8053 0640 4
Price: Format:Paperback
Target Readership Sen Secondary







Content: 1 – An introduction to environmental science; 2 - Environmental economics and environmental policy; 3 - Environmental systems: chemistry, energy and ecosystems; 4 - Evolution, biodiversity and population ecology; 5 - Species interaction and community ecology; 6 - Human population; 7 - Soil, agriculture and the future of food; 8 - Biodiversity and conservation biology; 9- Cities, forests and parks: land use and resource management; 10 - Environmental health and toxicology; 11 - Freshwater and marine systems and resources; 12 - Atmospheric science, air pollution and global climate change; 13 - Nonrenewable energy sources, their impacts and energy conservation; 14 - Renewable energy alternatives; 15 - Waste management.

Review: One of the problems we are facing today is that the interest in environmental matters has far outstripped the production of clear evidence and rational thought. This can best be sen in the global warming debate where there are conflicting views, increasingly bitter argument and yet there are still some issues that need to be resolved. If there's this much disagreement amongst adult scientists how can we expect better from our students (even though we often might do!). One solution to this is to bring critical thinking and other analytical skills into environmental material so that science is studied alongside argument preparation. There's much to be said for this approach especially if knowledge continues to increase - what we need is critical analysis not more "facts".

It's here that this book joins the debate. The fundamental idea is that you present the basic ideas alongside the means by which they can be critiqued. Take the first chapter as an example. Here, the aim is to introduce the reader into the development of environmental thought. It starts by looking at what constitutes the environment and the rise of population. This is followed by a look at key thinkers about population (Malthus, obviously; Hardin for the 'tragedy' but not Ehrlich's equation, surprisingly). The ecological footprint gets a mention as one modern way of looking at impact. The next stage is to consider the nature of science and how it works from method to peer-reviewed journals. There's even a part on ethics and justice. The chapter is completed with a series of questions from comprehension to more critical reviews. Dotted in the text are small boxes demanding the reader come to some form of judgement. There's a lot of material packed in a small space. The turnover of subjects is far faster than normally seen but it does bring together disparate areas of study and fits them into some framework for the beginner to understand. This process continues into chapter two which looks at economics and policy. Here, new elements are added. A case study starts the chapter followed by some introductory economic theory. Two writers are asked to contribute their opposing views lined up side-by-side. The next part looks at US policy and the process used to construct it. By now the reader should have some idea as to how the text is constructed and how it guides the reader onto following a series of well constructed pathways. These two chapters are part of a five-chapter collection called the 'foundations of environmental science' whose ideas underpin the later work. Part two follows the same notions as seen previously. Here, the emphasis is on the key issues (population, chapter 6; energy, chapters 13 and 14 etc.). In keeping with the text there is a second emphasis - solutions - where problems can be given some positive treatment.

Overall, this is a very good book and worthy of attention. For the UK market it's US-centric approach is perhaps a little too great for most people's use but this is more than countered for in the range of cases chosen and the way in which the text is constructed. It does what it sets out to - give people some of the most basic science and tie it together with some sound thinking. The range of cases is excellent: the production is the usual high quality expected in the US. The result is a very useful text which should get the most reluctant to make some positive statement about the environment because it can be agreed surely that we are in great need of decent debate.





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