Breathing Space

The Natural and Unnatural History of Air

Mark Everard


Everard incorporates air into our wider understanding of ecosystems and argues persuasively for the need for governments to recognise the importance of air as a resource.

In this book Mark Everard argues that governments and citizens too often take the air we breathe for granted. Air and the wider atmosphere are vital in protecting us from radiation, maintaining climate and weather patterns, dispersing water, seeds and pollen, and serving as an alternative source of energy.

Breathing Space overturns conventional thinking on the atmosphere, and is the first book to properly integrate air into the wider environmental discourse. Outlining the structure and development of the atmosphere, Everard assesses its importance within the environment as a whole.

Everard’s work represents the long overdue incorporation of air into our wider understanding of ecosystems, and argues persuasively for the need for governments to recognise the importance of air as a resource. A must read for scholars, students and activists.

Author Bio

Dr Mark Everard's work in all four sectors of society – private, public, academic and voluntary – has taken him across five continents to undertake applied research, policy development and capacity-building relating to the ways in which people connect with ecosystems. The author of 14 other books, including Common Ground (Zed Books, 2011) and The Hydropolitics of Dams (Zed Books, 2013), over 60 peer-reviewed scientific papers and over 250 technical magazine articles, Mark is also a communicator on sustainability and wider environmental and resource-use matters on TV and radio. He has served on numerous government advisory and expert groups in the UK, as well as advising other governments and multinational corporations on sustainability matters. His speciality is systemic thinking, particularly around connections between the water environment and other environmental media and the human activities that depend on and influence them. Mark’s work includes environmental ethics and economics as a means to bring our intimate interdependencies with ecosystems into the mainstream of public awareness and government thinking.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. Air and the making of the atmosphere
  • 2. Living in a bubble
  • 3. What does air do for us?
  • 4. Abuses of the air
  • 5. Managing our impacts on air
  • 6. Thinking in a connected way
  • 7. Rediscovering our place in the breathing space
  • 8. Resolution for integrated management of the air space
  • Annex : Ecosystem services and the Ecosystem Approach


'Breathing Space is a revelation, laying bare the science and cultural significance of that one part of the natural world we take most for granted. Mark Everard brings a lifetime's experience to bear in urging us to think more systemically about "this great connector", and to get our act together in sorting out the multiple abuses of the atmosphere that continue to this day.'
Jonathon Porritt, founder and director of Forum for the Future

'Breathing Space considers air and the atmosphere as a contiguous ecosystem interdependent with all life forms. This is novel and important, particularly in recognising that humanity - including economic activity - is increasingly modifying natural processes vital for our continuing health. Breathing Space offers unique insights into the interdependent workings of this atmospheric ocean, our uses and abuses of it, and the means for interacting with it more sustainably.'
Professor James Longhurst, University of the West of England

'Everard takes us on a journey of atmospheric rivers, jet streams and giant dragonflies. He shows that ecosystem services must be put at the heart of our planning system if we are to protect the habitats we all rely on. This book is an important read for decision-makers at all levels because, as Everard makes clear, protecting the atmosphere is crucial to everything we do.'
Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth

'Breathing Space provides a clear overview of the atmosphere and of how we use it, abuse it and need to safeguard it. It explains how the atmosphere and air pollution work, and their place in history, philosophy and culture. This is an excellent and thought-provoking book that celebrates the atmosphere as a key service provider to people and planet Earth.'
Roger Timmis, honorary professor in environmental sciences, University of Lancaster

'For too long, our airspace has been overlooked unless it pollutes, but no longer, now that Mark Everard's engaging book is on the scene. It places air at the heart of an ecosystem of interconnected human interactions and biodiversity. Rules that shape our treatment of air need to change urgently and this book challenges us with a blueprint to do it. Essential reading for environmental students and practitioners alike.'
John Merefield, University of Exeter


Publication Date: 9 April 2015
208 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781783603848
Hardback: 9781783603855
eBook ePub: 9781783603879
eBook PDF: 9781783603862
eBook Kindle: 9781783603886

Why is peer review so important?

Learn more about the various types of peer review, why it’s so important, what the social and political considerations of peer review are and how we use it at Zed Books.