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The Ecology of Eden by Evan Eisenberg

The Ecology of Eden

by Evan Eisenberg

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0394577507, Hardcover)

Many nature writers choose humanity's relationship to wildness as their topic. Evan Eisenberg examines the question with an eye toward Eden, "the wild place at the center of the world from which all blessings flow."

Humans left Eden; indeed, having left Eden is a defining human characteristic in almost all cultures. Eisenberg identifies three basic before-the-fall dreams: Eden, a paradise in space and time; Arcadia, the perfect pastoral blend of city conveniences and wilderness beauty; and the Golden Age, a time when things were really good. Humans almost universally think that sometime "before" or in some "other place," we (and all other species) lived in harmony and balance. Through examples ranging from cyanobacteria poisoning the early atmosphere with oxygen to ants raising aphids like cattle, Eisenberg reveals the fallacy of this notion. What humans have done that's different from previous world changers is allied ourselves with the annual grasses--quickly using up half a billion years of soil formation. With our crops, pets, and viruses, we've nullified continental ecological boundaries. The globe has been remade before, but not this fast or this far. We'll probably have to scale back our influence--the question is how and how much. This is where humanity's environmental battles will be fought in the future. Eisenberg trips up a bit in lumping environmentalists into two camps: planet managers (conservationists) and planet fetishers (preservationists), but he definitely seems to see the ecological pivot points on which our civilization rests.

This is a witty, charming, and well-referenced book, full of scary environmental facts and comforting ecological truths. His conclusions are not new--that humans need thriving cities, not sprawling suburbs, to avoid overwhelming the wilderness that's left. But Eisenberg's insight into how we can be at peace with our world is valuable advice, if we can stop dreaming and heed it. --Therese Littleton

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:54 -0400)

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For thousands of years, we have dreamed of going back to a time, to a place - Eden, Arcadia, the Golden Age - to a paradise that we ourselves have never known. The Ecology of Eden is at once an inquiry into this dream and a startling new vision of humankind's role in nature. The Ecology of Eden sheds a new light on present-day environmental problems, showing how we can make peace with our exile not by going back but by looking forward: by learning from nature itself - with, perhaps, some help from Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker - how humans and nature can make tough, supple music together.… (more)

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