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The Value of Life


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About the Author

Stephen R. Kellert is the Tweedy Ordway Professor of Social Ecology at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, author of The Good in Nature and Humanity (Island Press, 2002) and Kinship to Mastery (Island Press, 1997), and coeditor, with Edward O. Wilson, of The Biophilia Hypothesis (Island Press, 1993).


The literature is rife with books on the ecological and economic consequences of the loss of biological diversity (E.O. Wilson's The Diversity of Life, LJ 3/1/93,). Kellert, a Yale professor and coeditor of The Biophilia Hypothesis (LJ 11/1/93), takes a different approach by investigating how a diminution of our natural resources will effect the human psyche. His conclusion is that the well-being of the human spirit is dependent upon a strong relationship with nature and living diversity. Kellert devotes a large part of the text to a study on the ways in which our species values animals and nature and how these values are influenced by learning, culture, and experience (for example, the higher a person's education, the more likely a person is to express concern, affection, interest, and knowledge about animals and the natural world). The final section considers the link between values of nature and management, conservation, and restoration of biodiversity. Although clearly and beautifully written, the text may be a bit dry for most lay readers. Highly recommended for all academic libraries and for large environmental collections.-Lynn C. Badger, Univ. of Florida Lib., Gainesville

For 20 years, Kellert (The Diversity of Life, with Edward O. Wilson) has studied how people perceive nature and wildlife. Here, he outlines a framework of basic values, then explores differences among varying demographic and cultural groups. In the final section, he focuses on the links between values of nature and the challenge of managing, conserving and restoring biodiversity. Kellert contrasts Americans' perceptions with those of Germans, Japanese and Botswanans, finding that most Americans have a limited knowledge of nature and biological process. He maintains that the educational impact of zoos is negligible, that of TV nature shows transitory. He discusses the Endangered Species Act, hunting, rural land use and issues of biological conservation in the modern city. Noting that environmental education receives far less support or prestige than natural resource science, he pleads for redressing the balance, showing here how vital living diversity is to humanity. (Dec.)

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