ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW'S 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.
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Economics for People and the Planet, a collection of essays by James K. Boyce on the environment, inequality and the economy, argues that there is not an inexorable trade-off between advancing human well-being and having a clean and safe environment. The goal of economic policy should be to grow the good things that improve our well-being and environmental quality and reduce the bad things that harm humans and nature. To reorient the economy for these ends, we will need to achieve a more egalitarian distribution of wealth and power. Global climate change – the most pressing environmental challenge of our time – adds urgency to this task and creates historic opportunities for moving towards a greener future.
Sarah Conly argues that at present we do not have the right to have more than one child. We do not need to have more than one to live a good life, and having more than one when we are at risk of depleting our environmental resources is simply too dangerous to others.
Caring for Creation: Hope in Difficult Times argues that progress has been made in areas such as protection of endangered species, the sustainable agriculture movement, and recycling. While much remains to be done in these and other areas, this progress is cause for optimism about the future.
In its 4.5 billion–year history, life on Earth has been almost erased at least half a dozen times: shattered by asteroid impacts, entombed in ice, smothered by methane, and torn apart by unfathomably powerful megavolcanoes. And we know that another global disaster is eventually headed our way. Can we survive it? How? As a species, Homo sapiens is at a crossroads. Study of our planet’s turbulent past suggests that we are overdue for a catastrophic disaster, whether caused by nature or by human interference. It’s a frightening prospect, as each of the Earth’s past major disasters—from meteor strikes to bombardment by cosmic radiation—resulted in a mass extinction, where more than 75 percent of the planet’s species died out. But in Scatter, Adapt, and Remember, Annalee Newitz, science journalist and editor of the science Web site io9.com explains that although global disaster is all but inevitable, our chances of long-term species survival are better than ever. Life on Earth has come close to annihilation—humans have, more than once, narrowly avoided extinction just during the last million years—but every single time a few creatures survived, evolving to adapt to the harshest of conditions. This brilliantly speculative work of popular science focuses on humanity’s long history of dodging the bullet, as well as on new threats that we may face in years to come. Most important, it explores how scientific breakthroughs today will help us avoid disasters tomorrow. From simulating tsunamis to studying central Turkey’s ancient underground cities; from cultivating cyanobacteria for “living cities” to designing space elevators to make space colonies cost-effective; from using math to stop pandemics to studying the remarkable survival strategies of gray whales, scientists and researchers the world over are discovering the keys to long-term resilience and learning how humans can choose life over death. Newitz’s remarkable and fascinating journey through the science of mass extinctions is a powerful argument about human ingenuity and our ability to change. In a world populated by doomsday preppers and media commentators obsessively forecasting our demise, Scatter, Adapt, and Remember is a compelling voice of hope. It leads us away from apocalyptic thinking into a future where we live to build a better world—on this planet and perhaps on others. Readers of this book will be equipped scientifically, intellectually, and emotionally to face whatever the future holds.
The author of the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Weapons and Hope edits a collection of the finest science and nature writing. Original. 30,000 first printing.
An Iraq War vet's bracing, visionary response to the challenge posed by global warming and his hope in the humanities.
First principles -- Andrew Johnson survives -- Down goes Nixon -- The Clinton predicament -- Unable to discharge -- Lessons -- The case of Trump