cloth, 490 p., $120
Balanced perspectives on biodiversity are difficult to find today, especially in the public and political forum, where right-and-wrong, zero-sum scenarios steal the headlines, obscuring the dispassionate work of scientists whose efforts really matter. This magisterial work examines human interaction with the biosphere, agriculture in all its manifestations from the supposedly innocent and effectless acts of hunter-gatherers to the most industrialized monocultures of today's unsentimental corporate farms. It is the sort of book that must be factored into the planetary debate on the preservation of biotic resources. The scientists whose work is presented here should be heard in a world that is all too willing to engage in pitched battles over oversimplified scenarios, usually misrepresented to the public in a contest that is almost always political. Anyone reading this important book will begin to understand the high proportion of ignorance in the environmental elitism found in all sections of the public war over the blessed, and not so blessed, diversity of life. Man is mostly the hero in this collection of scientific studies; agriculture is his great monument. The antic bumper sticker aphorism, "If you have eaten today, thank a farmer," will come frequently to mind to the reader of these papers, which are sure to challenge and inform all parties concerned, including one may hope, the intellectually brutalized purveyors of junk science who seem to get the most attention in a world of short attention spans and short-term outlooks. In a few words, then, read this book!
— John Swenson