The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth

By John Kricher | Go to book overview

14
Facing Marley's Ghost

Remember that old bumper sticker, “Have you thanked a green plant today?” Well, to bring it into this century, what have Earth's ecosystems done for you lately? Drawing a blank? You're not alone. Most people regrettably have only the foggiest notion. But consider how each of us benefits from all those oceans, estuaries, marshes, fields, forests, savannas, grasslands, deserts, etcetera. Taken together, they provide “nature's services,” the natural ecosystem functions upon which all life, including humanity, ultimately depends. Ranging from purification of air and water, cycling and movement of nutrients, climate modification, generation and preservation of soils and renewal of soil fertility, to seed dispersal, pollination of crops and other vegetation, to maintenance of biodiversity (including the esthetic satisfaction it provides), it is clear that the functioning of natural ecosystems is essential to human welfare.1

I am coming up on four decades of teaching ecology to people ranging in age from 18 to about 25. They are smart, eager college students and most are not cynical. Given the subjects I teach, as well as my relatively advanced age, my students frequently ask my opinion about the future, their future. Most of my current students, with health and luck, may expect to approach the turn of the next century. After devoting my professional career to the study of ecology and evolutionary biology, I am hesitant to provide these hopeful young people with unbridled optimism. President John Kennedy once said, in essence, that global problems are created by

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The Balance of Nature: Ecology's Enduring Myth
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1: Why It Matters 1
  • 2: Of What Purpose Are Mosquitoes? 8
  • 3: Creating Paradigms 20
  • 4: Ecology B.C. (“before Charles”) 40
  • 5: Ecology A.D. (“after Darwin”) 53
  • 6: The Twentieth Century Ecology Comes of Age 67
  • 7: A Visit to Bodie Ecological Space and Time 84
  • 8: Ecology and Evolution Process and Paradigm 97
  • 9: Be Glad to Be an Earthling 113
  • 10: Life Plays the Lottery 128
  • 11: Why Global Climate is like New England Weather 140
  • 12: Taking It from the Top–or the Bottom 155
  • 13: For the Love of Biodiversity (And Stable Ecosystems?) 170
  • 14: Facing Marley's Ghost 186
  • Epilogue 203
  • Acknowledgments 207
  • Notes 209
  • Index 229
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