WORLD WILDLIFE FUND ATLAS OF THE ENVIRONMENT By Geoffrey Lean, Don Hinrichsen, Adam Markham (Prentice Hall: $19.95, illustrated) . This exemplary collection of clear, easy-to-read maps and carefully researched texts documents the state of the environment at the end of the 20th Century. The news is not good. Fourteen million children in the Third World die of preventable diseases every year, most of them contracted through contaminated water. The destruction of the tropical rain forests, the degradation of vital mountain watersheds and the growing desertization of the planet have been widely documented in the media, but rarely with such clarity. Despite legislative attempts to curb poaching, the lucrative trade in endangered-animal products continues. (The United States ranks among the top 10 importers of ivory, parrots and reptile skins.) The message of the "Atlas" is clear: The Earth is rapidly losing its capacity to support life, and a major, international effort must be made to need to clean up the damaged planet. This valuable reference book belongs in every school library.