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Our Dying Planet

An Ecologist’s View of the Crisis We Face


By the end of this century, coral reef ecosystems will very likely be extinct. Think about the magnitude of that statement for a minute, requests ecologist and coral reef expert Peter F. Sale in Our Dying Planet. Describing coral reefs as “the canary in the environmental coal mine,” Sale argues the impending environmental disaster consists of multiple problems, all of which are complex and interconnected.

Sale picks a handful of issues to examine in-depth, with chapters focusing on the collapse of fisheries, deforestation and climate change. Most compelling of these chapters is the one on coral reefs, his personal area of expertise, where he explains why these ecosystems are so incredible and why they are dying off.

Also particularly interesting are Sale’s theories as to why humans are so susceptible to arguments that the environmental crisis is not as severe as many scientists claim, that the changes (in climate, in fisheries stocks, etc.) are not as drastic, and that nature will somehow balance itself out. 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.

This article appeared in the January/February 2012 issue of Canadian Dimension (Inuit Focus and Occupy Movement ).


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