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Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1631490828
ISBN-10: 1631490826
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Editorial Reviews


“Edward O. Wilson possesses a rare, almost unique, combination of immense scientific knowledge and deep humane intelligence. Looking around him at the beloved natural world he has done so much to understand and taking the measure of the massive damage to it caused by human stupidity and greed, he has every reason to succumb to despair. But Half-Earth is not a bitter jeremiad. It is a brave expression of hope, a visionary blueprint for saving the planet.” (Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Swerve)

“Wilson speaks with a humane eloquence which calls to us all.” (Oliver Sacks)

“If humankind finds a way to live in peace together, and in harmony with nature, Wilson will have played a unique role in that deliverance.” (Jeffrey Sachs)

About the Author

Edward O. Wilson is widely recognized as one of the world's preeminent biologists and naturalists. The author of more than twenty books, including The Creation, The Social Conquest of Earth, The Meaning of Human Existence, and Letters to a Young Scientist, Wilson is a professor emeritus at Harvard University. The winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, he lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Liveright; 1 edition (March 7, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1631490826
  • ISBN-13: 978-1631490828
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Wineberg TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 7, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Edward O. Wilson is angry, and so is his book. No one is listening and things have gotten unbelievably worse. There’s no evidence to provide any real hope. He describes future paleontologists easily identifying the sedimentary layers of our era by the amount of chemicals and plastics in the soil strata, by the fragments of machines and weapons everywhere, and the lack of varied species identified. This is our legacy.

As I have written elsewhere, it took the Earth four billion years to reach the Holocene, an era where climate, ice, water and life achieved a state of pleasant equilibrium, with jet streams and ocean currents arranged in a virtuous circle. In just the last 150 years, Homo sapiens has upset the entire system, killing off the Holocene in favor of the Anthropocene, in which one invasive species rules, and any other species that does not add to its immediate benefit can be eliminated. And if even if it does add to its benefit, if it hasn’t been domesticated, it can still face extinction. We are clear-cutting the biosphere.

The book is a relentless, hardhitting – make that pounding – indictment of our custodianship. We are far worse than negligent; we are malevolent. We think it does no harm to remove a species from its environs – and its role. The way it really works, Wilson says, is there are no species living on the periphery; every species depends on other species or is critical to their survival. Our total disregard of this simple rule causes unpredictable disaster.

Wilson has been a naturalist all his long life, and it pains him to find things in this state. His childlike appreciation comes through, often overtaking his anger with the wonder of various species and how they live and contribute so differently.
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Format: Hardcover
E O Wilson is one of the world’s most renowned scientists and thinkers, a man who has devoted his life to the study and conservation of nature. Now approaching 86, he has spent the last few years making an increasingly urgent set of pleas to the rest of us to preserve our planet. In this book which can be regarded as the last offering in a trilogy, he describes the story of the interaction between humans and the rest of nature and makes an appeal to us to save the natural world.

Wilson uses an argument based partly on our emotional and practical kinship with nature and partly on our ability to come up with smart technology to try to convince us that we need to save half the planet for other species. It’s not entirely clear where the number half comes from, but as he says, reasonable calculations indicate that about 80 percent of species will be conserved in the future if we save that particular area of the planet.

About half of the book itself is devoted to a lucid description of biodiversity. Wilson illustrates the grand variety of living creatures around us ranging from snakes and monkeys to ants and bacteria and tells us the story of how so many of these creatures were destroyed in various extinction events, for instance of the kind that annihilated the dinosaurs. As other thinkers have documented we seem to be in a new era of extinction, this one deliberately initiated by human beings. Wilson is also adept at evoking the feeling of excitement one feels when he or she visits a rainforest or a riverbank teeming with life; his own unique experiences of travel and experience help us appreciate this feeling.

The argument for preserving the natural world is one that Wilson and others have made before, but he makes it here again with reason and references.
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Format: Hardcover
Edward O. Wilson knows his subject backwards and forwards, and his passion is admirable. This short work covers a lot of ground, meandering about on a large variety of topics.

Although I agree wholeheartedly with the author’s suggestion to set aside half the planet for nature and am also passionate about the biosphere, I found the book a bit preachy and dull in parts. It was kind of like reading a really long sermon. The text was also a bit repetitive, in the way of people trying to convince others to understand their passion. I found some of the chapter transitions very abrupt. Much of the information in Half-Earth was not new to me; I'd heard or read a lot of it before. As so many environmental works are, it was also downright depressing to read.

On the plus side, Wilson quoted Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, one of my favorites, who noticed man’s movement away from the natural world over a hundred years ago. Occasional sentences jumped out at me and made me think, like “Keep in mind that every surviving species (including us) is therefore a champion in a club of champions. We are all best of the best, descendants of species that have never turned wrong in the maze, never lost. Not yet.” (p. 117 of the digital advance reader copy)

Depressing as they are, I feel it is important to read books like this one if we are ever to change the way humans treat the rest of the biosphere. Half-Earth proposes a bold idea and would be a good book for discussion. Short as it is, it would also be a good starter book for someone not already well-read on the subject.

I read a digital advance reader copy.
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