Anne and Paul Ehrlich, whose previous books include THE END OF AFFLUENCE and EXTINCTION, have for years been prominent activists in the ecological movement. Their background in biological research (with an emphasis on population biology) and concern with the issues of diminishing resources and the environmental results of nuclear war inform this introductory work on the current state of the environment. They begin with several chapters on the evolution of life on the planet and the development of ecosystems, showing how plants and animals interrelate to form balanced, productive regions of desert, tropical rain forest, and prairie.
The second section discusses the disastrous growth of population in both the industrialized and undeveloped countries. Poor land management, a lack of ecological understanding, and the pressure to develop more land to feed growing populations have contributed greatly to the decline of ecosystems that could eventually affect the climate of the entire world.
Not every chapter, however, is devoted to the mess that man has made of his environment. While reading, one at times begins to believe that Earth would have been better off had man never evolved, but the Ehrlichs do see a measure of hope in the formation of Green political parties, environmental organizations, legislation, and United Nations resolutions. Though liberally slanted on such issues as abortion and occasionally cavalier in its dismissal of critics, this well-documented, beautifully presented book should serve as a call to action to those unfamiliar with the issues and as a reminder to everyone interested in the survival of the planet.