Review: The Encyclopedia of Earth
When I first got my reviewers copy of the Encyclopedia of Earth, I thought, what a dumb idea, nobody uses encyclopedia anymore with Wikipedia or Google around. In fact, there already is an online version with the same name. Why bother?
Then I opened it up and memories of my childhood flooded back, the hours spent poring over every page of the Life Science Library and the Golden Book encyclopedia that I loved, or the time spent in Eyewitness Books when my kids were little. It may be designed as a reference book, but it tells the story of our planet like a great novel.
scan of a typical page: large, beautiful pictures fill most of the page, with a Fact File to the side with a small map and interesting details. Below that: a Heritage Watch block describing what is happening now, in this case describing the retreat of the glaciers.
It is divided into six sections covering Birth, or the formation of the planet and evolution of life; Fire covering tectonic forces, Land surveying rocks and minerals, Air- weather, Water- the oceans, lakes and rivers, and Humans, which after five sections building up an image what a wonderful world we have, describes how we are screwing it up, and finally what we can do to save it.
That final chapter reads like an alphabet of woe, covering shortages in food, water, fish stocks, contaminated soil, polluted air, acid rain, melting ice and loss of diversity. But then it moves into conservation, beyond fossil fuels, cleaner and greener transportation and saving the soil. It concludes "There is still time to halt the ecological calamity that appears to be unfolding across the earth. However, hope comes with a caveat that crosses cultural, ethnic, political and spiritual boundaries. To salvage Earth the human species will need to communicate and cooperate globally like never before."
-wishful thinking, given that a big part of the United States won't buy this book because it includes both Charles Darwin and Al Gore.
Authors Michael Allaby, Robert Coenraads, Stephen Hutchinson, Karen McGhee, John O'Byrne and Ken Rubin and the University of California Press have not created a resource that is going to replace a single Google or Wikipedia search, which has replaced the conventional encyclopedia.
They have, however, created the kind of book that anyone interested in the world around us could spend hours with. They have also made it cheap and accessible, only $39.95. On a price per pound, per word or per picture basis it is an extraordinary bargain; for the price of three thin volumes of a DK Eyewitness book you get the whole world. If you want to give a gift that doesn't need batteries, that will be treasured this season and for years to come, this is it. ::The Encyclopedia of Earth
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