Coral reefs are on track to become the first ecosystem actually eliminated from the planet. So says leading ecologist Peter F. Sale in this crash course on the state of the planet. Sale draws from his own extensive work on coral reefs, and from recent research by other ecologists, to explore the many ways we are changing the earth and to explain why it matters. Weaving into the narrative his own firsthand field experiences around the world, Sale brings ecology alive while giving a solid understanding of the science at work behind today's pressing environmental issues. He delves into topics including overfishing, deforestation, biodiversity loss, use of fossil fuels, population growth, and climate change while discussing the real consequences of our growing ecological footprint. Most important, this passionately written book emphasizes that a gloom-and-doom scenario is not inevitable, and as Sale explores alternative paths, he considers the ways in which science can help us realize a better future.
Part One. Information: What We Are Doing to Our World
2. Removing Forests
3. Disrupting the Ocean-Atmosphere Engine
4. The Perilous Future for Coral Reefs
Part Two. Understanding: Why We Don't Comprehend the Scale of Our Problem
5. The Problem of Shifting Baselines
6. Our Unrealistic Belief in the Balance of Nature
Part Three. Moving Forward: Why It Matters and What We Need to Do
7. What Loss of Ecological Complexity Means for the World
8. Reducing Our Use of Fossil Fuels
9. Slowing Growth of the Human Population
10. Our Alternative Futures
Peter F. Sale is Assistant Director, Institute for Water, Environment, and Health at United Nations University and University Professor Emeritus at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. He is the author of The Ecology of Fishes on Coral Reefs, Coral Reef Fishes, and Marine Metapopulations.
"Sale, a Canadian academic, believes responsible debate leads to effective policy and largely manages to keep above the fray. He considers potential solutions from a range of perspectives and warns against cherry-picking facts to support a favoured hypothesis [...] Our Dying Planet is not a specialist text, but targeted at a wider readership. Sale's aim is 'to convey the complexity and severity of the environmental crisis, and the need for quick and determined action if we care at all about our own children. There is still time to act, and economically viable paths to take, that will bring us to [...] a future in which humans live rich and fulfilling lives as stewards of an ecologically sustainable Earth.'"
– China Dialogue
"There is a delicate balance between showing the true complexity of environmental problems and keeping the science of these fields accessible to non-scientists. It is a balance that Sale, for the most part, navigates deftly."
– Canadian Dimension
"Clear-eyed descriptions of the problems humans have created for Earth and themselves are particularly enlightening. Sale has a gift for accurately observing and communicating complex scientific concepts to nonscientists; any adult with a high school education can understand and appreciate this work [...] Highly recommended."
"A deeply researched and clear-eyed call to arms."
– The Scientist
"Sale provides a solid introduction to the study of ecology, simultaneously making readers comfortable with the science at hand and stressing the need to address collapsing ecosystems. Recommended for all those interested in ecology."
– Library Journal
"With a scientists understanding, a teacher's ability to make ecology clear to us all, and a passion to maintain the earth's ability to support and sustain us, Sale sounds the alarm."
– Wildlife Activist
"Sale brings ecology alive while giving a solid understanding of the science at work behind today's pressing environmental issues [...] Most important, this passionately written book emphasizes that a gloom-and-doom scenario is not inevitable, and as Sale explores alternative paths, he considers the ways in which science can help us realize a better future [...] A must-read for those that care about the planet Earth."
– The Guardian / Birdbooker Report Blog
"Sale provides much food for thought in this provocative look at a hotly debated subject."
– Kirkus Reviews
"Our Dying Planet is the most powerful statement on the future of life on earth I have ever read. Starting with the title, which I admire greatly, it delivers the sort of honest, accurate, no-punches-pulled assessment you would expect from a scientist who has seen the problems first hand. Coral reefs appear set to be the first major ecosystem to go extinct. Few people know more about this than Peter Sale. If every scientist were to speak as convincingly as Sale, the public might finally grasp the seriousness of the course on which we've set our planet."
– Randy Olson, author of Don't Be Such a Scientist
"Peter Sale's book shows us the exquisite sensitivity of ecosystems to the consequences of human activity. This is the anthropocene epoch, a time when human beings have become a force of nature, altering properties of the biosphere on a geological scale. Read this and you will know it is very late and we must act."
– David Suzuki, author of The Sacred Balance and The Legacy
"Disruptions such as overfishing, forest desecration, ocean acidification and pollution, and the wholesale destruction of coral reefs have already changed the earth disastrously. These problems will not fix themselves. For an articulate and crucial discussion of the mess we've made – and with some small hope for the future – you must read this book."
– Richard Ellis, author of The Empty Ocean and The Great Sperm Whale
"A bold and convincing explication of the forces inexorably leading to an environmental collapse, and sooner than most people think. Sale, a leading ecologist, tackles some sacred cows – including the implications of human population growth – and shows the many synergisms between impacts that would be devastating even if they acted alone – which they don't. No one will read Our Dying Planet and remain complacent, but Sale sketches some promising paths out of our dilemma."
– Daniel Simberloff, coeditor of Encyclopedia of Biological Invasions