Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Atlas of Global Conservation: an in-depth look that is accessible to all

Conservation is a broad, multi-faceted issue and its implementation, or lack of, goes beyond the saving of a particular species or ecosystem. There are social and economic implications that also come into play, making it much more than simply a call to "save the sharks" or "save the rainforest".

I have had the pleasure of being approached by publishers and distributors to do reviews of nature or conservation books and DVDs, but one caught my attention on my own that methodically lays out the varied aspects of conservation in a way that is detailed yet easy for even the most uninitiated on the subject to understand. The Atlas of Global Conservation, prepared by The Nature Conservancy and authored by experts in the field, takes on the expansive topic of conservation by leading the reader through its many components step-by-step, leading towards actions being taken, solutions, and what lies ahead.

First, the book breaks it all down: global eco-regions; habitats like forests, grasslands, coastal and coral reef marine habitats and more; then the whole range of species including plants, mammals, freshwater and marine creatures, reptiles and amphibians, and others. Each are portrayed globally, well-defined on maps that show concentrations and distribution.

Then the book turns to the issues that are at work which brought about the need for conservation in the first place: the human population, consumption, climate change, habitat loss through development, and so on. When individually identified and illustrated globally, it is staggering to see the impact that one species, mankind, is having on the planet.

But this is not a doomsday volume. The Atlas of Global Conservation identifies where and how action is being taken, from land and marine protected areas to economic-based solutions that benefit both developing societies and industrial nations. The book identifies the larger issues of international cooperation while also noting the specific efforts being done by individuals and groups to restore wetlands, forests, and coral reefs.

"In 528 AD, the Roman emperor Justinian declared that his empire's rivers, streams, and surrounding lands should be protected, because, together with the air, running water, the sea and seashore, they were 'common to all mankind.' It was a novel idea at the time: that the state should help protect nature as opposed to private property."

It may have taken fifteen hundred years to bring us to where we are today, but we have always known deep down that conservation needed to be part of our existence, in harmony with our personal aspirations and accomplishments. The Atlas of Global Conservation neatly shows any one, regardless of their current knowledge on the subject, just where we are, what we are faced with, and perhaps most importantly, what we can do about it.
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