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Title: Environmental Science - A students companion
Author(s): Kenneth J Gregory; Ian G Simmons; Anthony J Brazel; John W Day Jr; Edward A Keller; Arthur G Sylvester; Alejandro Yanez- Aráncibia
Date of Publication: 2009 Publisher: Sage
Pages: ISBN: 978 1 4129 4705 3
Price: Format:Paperback
Target Readership Sen Secondary








Content: 1 – Environmental Sciences; 2 - Environments; 3 - Paradigms/Concepts; 4 - Processes and Dynamics; 5 - Scales and Techniques; 6 - Environmental Issues.

Review: The increasing sophistication of environmental arguments and the subjects from which they draw can create problems for the beginner. There are those who might argue that environmental education is little more than being nice to nature but in real terms, environmental science is a highly complex synthetic science whose practitioners need to be familiar with a very wide range of disciplines. Indeed, part of the problem we have in understanding, let alone solving, current environmental issues lies with this need for a multidisciplinary approach. One practical upshot of this situation is the current employment market for those with environmental qualifications is strong.

This brings us to the need for texts to help beginners gain this familiarity with the range of subjects they are likely to deal with. Dictionaries help but there is need for a more systematic text which is where this book comes in. There are approximately 220 subjects here, each given a page or two to outline their key features. To help the reader the book is divided into six parts. The first covers the range of disciplines that are part of the environmental pantheon. We start with anthropology and go through to soil science. Take the entry for 'ecology' as a case. We start with a brief definition using, in this case, Margalef's ideas. This is then used as a springboard to sub-divide the topic. In two pages the basic areas of study are outlined which, with a half-page of references, makes up the complete topic (in addition to a series of links to closely related entries). The references used make interesting reading in themselves. Some are standard (although the reference to Townsend et al could have been the more recent edition) and some are less common. Odum gets a mention for the classic Fundamentals of Ecology although it is not easy in the text to see where this is cited. Also, if one is quoting Odum why not Krebs whose work is equally seminal? This analysis is not to condemn the text but to highlight the real difficulty the authors have had to put together something both comprehensive and compact. Everyone would have their own favourites and the judge needs to be the reader and not the expert. In this case, the entry does outline key areas and suggest the importance of the topic. This notion of brief outline, links and references is continued throughout the text. If part one dealt with topics then part two deals with environments. There's an eclectic mix similar to the first part with entries from Antarctic to vegetation types. Although this section deals with environments there's a mix of areas and processes. Part three looks at paradigms and concepts which is a clearer area. Paradigm itself gets a mention and does a biocomplexity through to uniformatarianism. Part four looks at processes and covers a range of, largely, physical geography topics - rock types, cycles, erosion, volcanoes etc. Part five turns to scales and techniques although there seems to be only 1 of the former and several of the latter although the inclusion of small entries for both 'Pleistocene' and 'Quaternary' leads one to speculate. Finally, part six covers environmental issues. Here the reader is on surer ground with most of the key current issues rating a mention (nice to see global dimming next to global warming as the former is often left out.

Overall, an ambitious project. With the range of possibilities at their command it would be almost impossible to make a list to which everyone in their own fields would agree. What we do have is a very commendable spread and some attempt to link closely related topics and ideas. The reading list will no doubt help expand areas left with insufficient detail in the entry. Although neither dictionary nor encyclopedia (for concise or more lengthy analysis) this book does highlight the considerable range of topics needed to understand environmental science. It's simple structure and vast number of topics will help the beginner appreciate the nature of the task.





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