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November-December 2006

Volume 94, Number 6
Page 567

DOI: 10.1511/2006.62.567

One Planet : A Celebration of Biodiversity (Abrams, $55) is both a celebration and a lamentation. Powerfully combining words and images, Nicholas Hulot (a journalist, book author and TV producer) decries "destruction symptomatic of a shortsighted approach that favors nonsustainable use of renewable resources to meet immediate needs."

Hulot pulls no punches in his critique of the modern socioeconomic system that has accelerated species losses to historical highs. (Some scientists believe the attrition ranks as the sixth mass extinction.) Readers might think that the writing echoes the doomsayers' drumbeat, which is ever more prominent in the popular media, but there is a crisis unfolding.

From One Planet.

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The book highlights the tragedy of biodiversity's decline. Hulot's collected images (from dozens of photographers) reinforce and amplify his words. Niles Eldredge, curator of the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History, writes in his introduction that the book helps the reader "emotionally reconnect with the living world." It does. For example, one image shows a bird trapped by a plastic bag in a Spanish garbage dump (above, top), evoking feelings from disgust to rage to sadness. Likewise, an aerial shot of a stand of intact forest side by side with a clear-cut area (above, bottom left) angers those who realize we have less destructive options for using natural resources.

Such pictures are all the more poignant when contrasted with our planet's diversity and beauty, which reveals unexpected treasures wherever we look. On a coral reef, a seahorse (above, bottom right) has evolved to blend in perfectly with its surroundings.

If the author's passion and self-awareness ever percolate up to the decision-makers of the world, perhaps, one day in the future, we will be celebrating.