Princeton University Press, 1978. ISBN 0-069-02364-6

The book is about ecology, or the inter- connection of all the plants and animals in the world. This is a developing subject looking to answer the question in Colinvaux's words of "why some animals are common and others rare, why some are bigger than others, why their numbers are the same year after year, why their behaviour may be curious, and how they share the energy of the life giving sun".

Along the way the reader gets to follow the calculations of Nelson Transeau in discovering exactly how efficient plants are at capturing the sun's energy that we all depend on ( 6678 kilograms of sugar equivalent per acre of U.S. corn per crop- a poor conversion rate of 2% of the sun's energy ). Or higher up the food chain look at the unexpected activities of hunting wolf packs on Mount McKinley in Alaska ( they're risk averse ).

The text is very clear and the reader gets access
to real science without politics maths or jargon. He shows that a Darwinian "survival of the fittest" is much more a question of peaceful exploration of different niches rather than a struggle for the same ones, getting back for a change to what Darwin actually observed. Equally he sticks to the truth even if he doesn't like it much. He hates the Alaska pipeline for its misuse of fuel reserves and wishes it had never been built but it doesn't stop him dumping the "fragile Alaskan ecosystem" argument.

Finally he looks at the place of people in the world, "for the first time an animal had adopted a new niche without speciating" and identifies this as the most momentous event in the history of life. I think that he's right and if you want to have a good impartial look at the consequences this is probably one of the best places to start.

The book also helps in getting to grips with the confusion of the green debate.

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