rusq: Vol. 54 Issue 1: p. 63
Sources: Encyclopedia of Environmental Change
Paul MacLennan

Reference Assistant, CSU-East Bay Library, Hayward, California

To understand the science of global warming and related climate changes, one must first understand the scientific terms and concepts that are used in the academic literature and are increasingly found in the general and social media as the effects of environmental change are more widely acknowledged and discussed throughout society. Therefore, information seekers will be turning to their libraries for the current and valid resources on environmental science that will explain terms like biological magnification, oceanicity, or virtual water so that they can understand how these concepts affect them, their communities, and the earth as a whole.

In Encyclopedia of Environmental Change, editor in chief, John A. Matthews has gathered approximately 130 scientists and academic writers to create a three-volume work of four thousand entries. This new reference title is the revised and expanded edition of Mattthews’ 2001 work, The Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Environmental Change, and he indicates in the preface that “previous entries have been updated thoroughly, expanding many and creating >800 new entries to cover new developments, removing or consolidating a few entries…and increasing the number of figures and tables” (xlvi). The signed entries vary in length from one sentence definitions on specific terms to longer discussions of two to three pages on major topics. All entries include a list of references for future research and are complimented by graphs, charts, and tables to illustrate the scientific concepts.

Matthews states in his preface that this reference work is “intended to promote knowledge and understanding across this complex interdisciplinary field by clarifying the terminology, by providing an authoritative and up-to-date gateway to information and by encouraging the synthesis of its diverse parts” (xlvii). Matthews achieves his purpose by providing current definitions and contexts for the science that explains our global dilemma as well as offering a base of knowledge from which environmental innovations and solutions may occur.

In comparison, Cuff and Goudie’s The Oxford Companion to Global Change (Oxford University Press, 2009) is a more general encyclopedia with a similar scope. However, in breadth of coverage and number of individual entries on terms and concepts related to environmental and climate change, Encyclopedia of Environmental Change offers more to both the researcher and the information seeker, and this reviewer recommends it for academic libraries.

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