Environmental Change

Environmental Change

Environmental Change

Environmental Change


This concise modern survey examines the many recent interdisciplinary developments in the study of the environmental changes of the last 3 million years. It is the third edition of a well-received book which has been substantially revised to incorporate the great volume of new literature and to provide an up-to-date analysis of this increasingly important topic. The basic outline has been retained but a great deal of new information has been incorporated. The most heavily revised sections are those dealing with techniques for environmental reconstruction, glaciation in lower latitudes and the southern hemisphere, climatic changes in the twentieth century, and the causes in environmental change. These are supported by many new illustrations, new guides to further reading, and a substantially expanded bibliography.


The study of the environmental changes of the last three million years, which forms the subject of this book, can be approached from a wide variety of viewpoints. the viewpoint adopted here is that of the geographer--the aim being to show how the physical environment and landscape of the Earth have changed during the time that man has been living on the Earth, and to suggest, by example, some ways in which the great environmental changes may have influenced his development.

These environmental changes include not only those of climate, but also changes of sea-level, of vegetation associations, desert limits, lake levels, river discharges, hurricane frequencies, sea-ice cover, numbers of mammals, and many others. Particular attention is paid to the degree and frequency of change, for it is often insufficiently appreciated how frequent and substantial the changes have been, even within historical time. To understand the nature and origin of present-day soils, landforms, and floral and faunal distributions, it is essential to be aware of their history and evolution. Many features of the environment and of the landscape are not necessarily in equilibrium with present processes, and thus it is frequently inappropriate to examine them purely in terms of currently functioning systems.

The changes which man himself has made to his environment and landscape, however, only form an incidental part of this book. This is not because the influence of man is considered to be unimportant--the reverse is the case--but because it could in itself form the basis of a lengthy volume. However, particularly in the last century or so, man has become an increasingly potent agent of environmental change, and to put 'natural' environmental changes into context, some reference has had to be made to these developments.

Another feature of this volume is that, inevitably, the intensity of treatment of the various phases of the last three million years increases as one moves towards the present. This reflects two underlying facts: our knowledge becomes less uncertain, and our chronology more exact, as the present is approached; and the relationships of environmental changes to human affairs is more evident, not least because of the exponential growth of human population. Nevertheless, this book is not meant to be crudely deterministic. All it seeks to do is to show that changes have taken place in man's environment to a . . .

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