Summary of "The Earth as Transformed by Human Action"

Summary of

The Earth as Transformed by Human Action

By WC Clark, RW Kates, JF Richards, JT Mathews, WB Meyer, BL Turner II (ed.)

Summary written by Conflict Research Consortium Staff

Citation: The Earth as Transformed by Human Action, WC Clark, RW Kates, JF Richards, JT Mathews, WB Meyer, BL Turner II (ed.), (Cmabridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 713pp.

The Earth as Transformed by Human Action examines the changes in human population and society and the resultant anthropomorphic changes to the earth and its atmosphere. This work features the work of many authors who are experts in their own fields of endeavor.

Both Professors Michael Glantz and Jim Wescoat have used The Earth as Transformed by Human Action as required reading for ARSC 5020/7020. This work is divided into four sections, each devoted to a different aspect of anthropomorphic transformation of the earth. The first section will be of interest to those who desire an understanding of the changes in human population and society. The concept of population and the long-term population change since the Industrial revolution are examined. The effect of technological change on: population, institutions, social organisations and cultural values is discussed. It is noted that increasing urbanization and the increasing separation of production and consumption may be contributory to an increasing awareness of human impacts in the form of changing attitudes and emphasis.

The second section will be helpful to those who seek an overview of anthropomorphic global change. Section two examines the transformation of the land as evidenced in: the forests, the soils and sediment transfer and siltation. The use and transformation of terrestrial water systems and the resultant change in water quality and flows is discussed. Demonstration of changes in the coastal zones and the marine environment are closely correlated to changes in atmospheric trace constituents and climate in the estimation of the authors. The authors next focus upon the changes, resultant from changes to the land and water of the earth, on the global biota: terrestrial and marine fauna and flora. The final section on transformation is concerned with changes in the nutrient cycles of the earth, particularly with the: carbon, sulphur, nitrogen and phosphorous cycles. The changes in trace pollutants and the effect of ionizing radiations are also discussed.

Section three will be useful as a way for the informed reader to see evidence of the authors' assertions offered in the form of examples of changes in specific regions of the planet. Amazonia, Borneo and the Malay Peninsula are used to illustrate changes in tropical frontiers. Examples of changes to Highland ecosystems are Caucasia and East African Highlands. TheGreat Plains of North America and the Russian Plain are asserted to have been impacted by anthropomorphic changes. Finally, the populous South (eg Mexico and Nigeria) and the populous North (eg Sweden, the Hudson-Raritan basin and Switzerland) are examined.

The fourth and final section focuses upon understanding the enumerated transformations. That is, this final section will assist the reader in making effective use of technical information. This section offers an examination of three separate, but perhaps not independent, realms. First, the inadequacy of human-nature theory and the view of mass consumption is both asserted and argued for. Second, understanding the realm of social relations evidenced in production, reproduction and gender in environmental transformations is pursued. Lastly, the realm ofcultural-human ecology is asserted to be a story of adaptation and change within an historical context.

The Earth as Transformed by Human Action offers both the historical background which drives anthropomorphic change as well as an overview of the effects of that change. Each, individual essay on any particular topic is free standing and thus, one may select only readings from topics of particular interest. This work will prove useful to informed readers who wish a sound footing from which to explore particular areas of anthropomorphic global change with greater specificity.