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Coral reefs are on track to become the first ecosystem actually eliminated from the planet. So says leading ecologist Peter F. Sale in this crash course on the state of the planet. Sale draws from his own extensive work on coral reefs, and from recent research by other ecologists, to explore the many ways we are changing the earth and to explain why it matters. Weaving into the narrative his own firsthand field experiences around the world, Sale brings ecology alive while giving a solid understanding of the science at work behind today's pressing environmental issues. He delves into topics including overfishing, deforestation, biodiversity loss, use of fossil fuels, population growth, and climate change while discussing the real consequences of our growing ecological footprint. Most important, this passionately written book emphasizes that a gloom-and-doom scenario is not inevitable, and as Sale explores alternative paths, he considers the ways in which science can help us realize a better future.