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4.7 out of 5 stars
74
What Has Nature Ever Done for Us?: How Money Really Does Grow On Trees
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on 1 February 2013
This book should be essential reading for all students of biology and pehaps it is even more important for people who really don't care much for anything but other themselves or other human beings ......
It shows how we, as a devastatingly powerful force in the world, have done many things that we feel improve our civilisation without realising the full 'costs' associated with benefits that we enjoy - it must be time for all humans to realise that 'ignorance is not bliss' and make sure that the future we will offer succeeding generations is not blighted by our blinkered approach to economic development.
Surely there can be few things more alarming than the photograph of Chinese people perched in trees doing the 'work' of bumblebees, so that the trees will produce fruit ?
Its well written, covers a wide range of issues that are nicely developed using easily appreciated metaphors and with a stunning array of examples - absolutely fascinating !!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 6 May 2013
A few years ago I paid a visit to the Hawk Conservancy Trust near Winchester. Besides the usual suspects, the sanctuary at the time featured an enclosure of truly sad profundity, containing a handful of the few remaining Indian vultures, held there for safe keeping whilst back in India a solution was sought for their plight, caused by the use of an anti-inflammatory drug in cattle which had killed millions of vultures as they performed their job as nature's dustbin.

Vultures often get a bad press. Calling someone a vulture implies a lack of scruples, but in reality vultures are graceful fliers and useful scavengers, their use value given by Juniper in this book at $34bn in India alone. Without the vultures diseased carcasses are not cleared so efficiently, and there has been a surge in numbers of feral dogs which has led to an escalation in attacks on humans, often leading to rabies and death.

This is just one of a number of case studies used by Juniper in this readable and informative book to demonstrate just what it is nature has done for us. It's a mix of bad and good news. Awareness of the role played by natural agents - birds, bees, mangrove swamps, trees - is rising, but not enough is being done still to prevent their wholesale eradication and destruction. There is not only too much talk of mitigation instead of prevention, there isn't even enough actual mitigation.

In some ways Juniper is wrong that economists don't have the tools to cope with the situation. There are very clear models of negative externalities from pollution, showing the private and social costs associated, and the implications for taxation, but too many are tied to free market solutions related to carbon trading, which has so far been an abysmal failure, a broken system nobody has the will to fix. Juniper himself mentions the model of the tragedy of the commons and the way that solutions are being deployed, quite successfully, based upon game theory, amongst others.

Nevertheless, Juniper does make a very strong, plausible and readable case for protecting and nurturing the various natural agents upon which he focuses, showing how they are not just a Good Thing in the abstract but also a Good Thing in concrete terms. The Benefit-Cost Analysis, another tool of economics, works.

But as well as the macro-level ideas, he also picks up problems at micro level, such as the harm done by concreting over gardens, which made me feel quite self-righteous, having not long ago had my own back yard reconverted to lawn from patio.

Finally, just a note. The author of The Lost World, inspiration for Juniper's pet biome project, was Arthur Conan Doyle, not Arthur C Clarke, as he early on asserts.
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on 7 March 2013
The subtitle to this new book says it all: How money really does grow on trees. Our only planet is heading for extremely tough times, at our hands, and yet although nature can provide all the answers, for free, and although many good things are being developed, we are not paying enough attention or quickly enough. Tony Juniper describes many of the major problems facing planet earth (and therefore us and all other living things) and then explains, with numerous staggering statistics, how nature really could provide the solutions if only our leaders would see the importance and common sense of the situations. Instead we continue to plunder nature's finite resources and deplete the very help that is available. The book makes you incensed that greed and short-sightedness are causing the loss of our chance to undo the damage. This is about all our futures and the future of our children - it couldn't be more important - yet instead of these issues being front page news every day we are instead encouraged to spend more and apply our passion to game shows and celebrity gossip. This is a book that you end up wanting everyone in the world to read - especially politicians, economists, educators and company leaders. Highly recommended.
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on 17 June 2013
This is a fascinating and well-researched book by a leader in the field of environmental science.

Tony Juniper makes an excellent argument for economically sustainable employment of the environment and its natural systems, without the wholesale and terminal abuse that mankind is currently meting out to it.

One is left hoping that governments and big business will see the logic and change their ways. He certainly makes our misuse of natural systems look not only clumsy and greedy, but not even in the long-term economic interests of the world.

One small gripe: Juniper makes references throughout the book to other studies...it would have been nice to see, in a book of this scope and importance, a list of named and dated references for further detailed reading.
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on 12 May 2013
This book is fantastic, it offers a different way to view the environment which should lead to a wider and general audience appreciating what it offers, not just the environmentally aware. It is written in accessible language suitable for anyone whether they are an environmental expert, diving in for interest or hobby, a novice or even a skeptic. This book is especially useful to me for my masters degree and dissertation. It was cheap and arrived quickly and I would definitely recommend this to everyone.
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on 3 May 2013
If you care about the only home we have in the known universe I strongly recommend you read this book.
If you are a climate change skeptic you should read this book.
If you are a deep green who hates the idea of putting a monetary value on the natural world you should read this book.
if you are a scientist who struggles to explain complex issues in simple language you should read this book
If you are a planner or a politician making decisions about building anything any where you should most definitely read this book.

The book explains in very clear and simple language just how depend we are on the natural environment, for our air, for our water, for our food, for our physical and mental well-being. It explains how the birds and the bees pollinate the plants we need to eat. It explains how birds and bugs clean up our mess after us. It explains how tiny little micro organisms in the sea cause clouds to form so it can rain. It explains how soil and plants capture that rain so that we have water to drink. It explains in many many ways how the total monetary value of the natural environment is twice global GDP.

It is an easy read, you can get through it in a weekend. If that's too much to ask then at least read the press release.

So, buy this book, and having read it please DO NOT put it on the shelf. Give it to somebody else to read, preferably a planner or a politician.
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on 23 February 2015
This author gives numerous examples from around the world that prove just that - we can sustain life, comfortably without degrading and destroying our home, the earth and that to harm the earth is to harm human health and livelihood both now and in the near future. Aside from natural resources, we have totally underestimated just how much the earth does to sustain human life.
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on 25 November 2014
This should be made into a major television series!

I was amazed to read about how amazingly full of life soil is and what it does in terms of carbon capturing and about how crucial cloud forests are for delivering fresh water.

Seriously, if you're reading this and you work in TV, find a way to get this filmed. It has so much to teach.
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on 1 April 2013
It doesn't matter if you believe in climate change and/or global warming, this book by Tony Juniper must be read by all - certainly by school children, and then perhaps given away free to the nation. If you ever wantedd to know what damage we are doing to the planet - forget for a moment CO2 emissions and carbon footprints - just in the way we live and treat our environment to the point if we don't change our habits the environment that sustains us, i.e. life, will not be there. Tony's book spells it out for all to understand. It does not paint a pretty picture but it does need to be said.
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on 13 February 2016
This really is the most fascinating, memorable and readable books I have ever read. Tony Juniper shows a wide and deep understanding of the problems and alternative natural solutions that man has made. It truly should be compulsory reading for all Members of Parliament! I could not put it down.
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