Global environmental issues

Global environmental issues
Frances Harris (ed.)
Cambridge, UK 2003 | Pp 367 | ?50.00 (HB) | ISBN 0854049878
Reviewed by David Taylor

Since library shelves already groan under the weight of a myriad worthy books on this subject one might be forgiven for asking why write another.

However, this is a surprising and welcome addition and if you read any environmental text book in the next 12 months I would urge you to read this one.

This book is not just the usual description of the science of global environmental issues but also about the interaction between the science (and the scientists), politics, economics, culture and values which make the resolution of such issues difficult.

It is based on a university lecture course and consists of a series of eight essays into broad issues such as climate change and biodiversity, how we satisfy human needs in food and energy and how we manage the residual environmental impact. These are sandwiched between broader perspectives from the editor herself on the complexity of the interactions between humans and the environment and the meaning of sustainable development.

Despite the admirable aims of the book, there is an understandable tendency for the topic chapters to be dominated by the scientific facts and to some extent preconceived opinions of the individual authors. It would also have been helpful to have had a more in-depth discussion on risk and precaution. Nevertheless, the broader perspective and complexity of the issues, scientific, cultural and political, are adequately dealt with. The additional reading lists are particularly well thought out.

Although written for an audience of upper level undergraduates and masters students in departments of environmental science and geography I would commend this book to anyone who seeks a more considered understanding of the problems of the global environment. It would be particularly useful for politicians and journalists.