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Himalaya: Life on the Edge of the World [Hardcover]

Professor David Zurick PhD , Professor P. P. Karan

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Book Description

9 Nov 1999

The majestic natural beauty of the Himalaya Mountains has inspired awe and religious devotion in people around the world for millennia. With thirty peaks rising over 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) -- including Everest and Kanchenzonga, the world's highest and third-highest peaks -- the Himalaya dwarf all other mountain ranges. Sprawling 2,700 kilometers across India, Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan, the Himalaya possess an abundance of ecological niches, from subtropical to arctic climates, and support vast quantities of flora and fauna -- more than 650 varieties of orchids thrive in the wet mountain region of Sikkim alone. In the valleys, a surprising number of tenacious peoples have over centuries carved out diverse cultures in the harsh mountain environment.

Although seemingly timeless, the Himalaya are anything but unchanging. The mountains themselves continue to grow an average of one centimeter per year, with some peaks rising ten centimeters in a single year. More alarming are the profound environmental and cultural changes occurring throughout the region. In Himalaya: Life on the Edge of the World, David Zurick and P. P. Karan explore these dynamic changes through geological records, scientific reports, and official documents dating back over a century and through years of field research and travel which have given them an intimate knowledge of the landscape and people of the Himalaya. The authors provide a comprehensive natural history of the region from the birth of the Himalaya out of the tectonic disruptions beneath the primordial Tethys Sea to the variety of landforms, habitats, and climates seen today; a lively study of the peoples who make the mountains their home, tracing human history in the Himalaya back more than a thousand years; and an in-depth analysis of the relationship between nature and society in the Himalaya and the pressing problems of environmental degradation, explosive population growth, spiraling poverty, and globalization confronting the region and its people.

Challenging widely held assumptions about the current ecological crisis in the Himalaya -- that deforestation, for example, can be blamed exclusively on local villagers or that pollution and rampant resource exploitation occur uniformly throughout the range -- the authors detail a much more complex scenario in which the population explosion is only one of the many factors affecting the Himalayan landscape and in which some regions exhibit little of the environmental decline witnessed elsewhere. Himalaya also offers reasons for hope, documenting the success of wildlife preserves and national parks in protecting the region's fragile ecology, effective strategies of local environmental activists, the encouraging rise of ecotourism, and the introduction of both new and rediscovered techniques of sustainable agriculture. Thoroughly researched, engagingly written, and lavishly illustrated with helpful maps and evocative photographs, Himalaya provides a compelling account of the mountain range's natural history, cultural diversity, environmental predicament, and future survival.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press (9 Nov 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801861683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801861680
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 17.8 x 3 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,818,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"I welcome this book and will recommend it to the many people who are looking for an introduction to the complex geography, history, and social landscape of the Himalaya that underlie the patterns and processes we encounter there today. Himalaya: Life on the Edge of the World is both scholarly and accessible, presenting a wealth of information in a readable and engaging way." -- Barbara BrowerPortland State University, author of The Sherpa of Khumbu and editor of Himalayan Research Bulletin

Book Description

A sweeping account of the natural history and cultural diversity of the awe-inspiring mountain range.

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a SPIraL OF DarKISH COLOr appears on most world maps in the central part of Eurasia, depicting the greatest concentration of mountains on earth. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Myths and Realities of the Himalayan Environment 13 Jan 2000
By Nigel J. R. Allan - Published on Amazon.com
Zurick and Karan's book on the Himalaya is easily the best book in recent years focussing on the condition of the Himalayan environment. Instead of using evidence from a few small examples, usually villages scattered across the Himalaya from Pakistan to Assam, the authors invoke a meta analysis, an examination of many studies and especially data from the entire area. This technique avoids any instances of the universal fallacy, that is, generalizing from a few cases the characteristics of all.
The thematic focus is on what is called The Theory of Himalayan Degradation as it was constructed by the alarmists in the 1970s into the 1980s including the German ecologist H-C Reiger, earth scientists Bruno Messerli and Jack Ives, and journalists like Erik Eckolm, a sometime science editor of the NY Times. Much of this concern, that there is a widespread environmental catastrophe in the Himalaya, is still being promoted. Zurick and Karan, both human geographers who have have been studying the Himalaya for a total of sixty years, find in their analysis that the Himalayan environmental situation is highly variable, problems exist, but the basic scenario that overpopulation causes cultivated land expansion and deforestation of steep lands, thereby increasing erosion, and silt laden runoff deposited downstream, is overly simplistic.
The authors review a large number of field studies and data sets across the Himalaya and through cartographic analysis to demonstrate that the current status of the Himalayan environment is diverse. Through a series of seven intensive regional studies, in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Nepal, Sikkim, and Bhutan the authors demonstrate the contemporary environmental status. Factors such as historical land tenure systems, trading routes, border closings, road building and migration all play critical roles in influencing environmental perturbation.
For anyone interested in the Himalaya the book is well worth reading. The authors provide contextual photographs, copius notes to the chapters, and the very first published set of maps of Himalayan districts accompanied by tabular material on 100-year population, agricultural and forest data. The introductory chapters will provide the general reader with a good background to Himalayan habitat and society. I highly recommend it.
Nigel J. R. Allan, author/editor, Human Impact on Mountains; Mountains at Risk: Current Issues in Environmental Studies; Karakorum Himalaya: A Bibliography.
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