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The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-1597260961 ISBN-10: 1597260967 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 440 pages
  • Publisher: Island Press; 1 edition (June 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597260967
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597260961
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"[The Ehrlichs] argue clearly and convincingly ... this fascinating, inspiring book [deserves a] wide audience."
(Publishers Weekly)

“…The Dominant Animal tells the story of how mankind came to dominate nearly every inch of the earth. [It] spans the entire history of the world, weaving both cultural and biological evolution into the ambitious narrative. At its core are timely questions we would all do well to consider: Is it in our best interest to dominate Earth? Are we creating a future we want to live in?”

"While the world suffers from natural disasters, inflated energy costs, and unsustainable consumption patterns, the Ehrlichs make hopeful suggestions for sustainability and reduced vulnerability."
(Library Journal)

“Alpha male and female of contemporary science ... the Ehrlichs convey a message at once chilling and hopeful…. The big ideas and the tenor of The Dominant Animal are right on. The book rejects starry eyed insistence on new technology as humankind's savior in favor of socially responsible, if admittedly difficult-to-enact, prescriptions.”

Covering a vast swathe of disciplines, from genetics, evolution and ecology to climatology, economics and global politics, the book almost reads like a primer for the concerned citizen.... This marvellous compendium should be required reading.
(New Scientist)

The Ehrlichs, in The Dominant Animal, cover an enormous amount of scientific ground in looking at both the big picture in terms of environmental dangers and challenges while also offering detailed explanations of how humans have evolved, both genetically and culturally, within our environment. The book relates precise science in easily understandable terms.
(Palo Alto Weekly)

"Buy this for your next seminar class.... or be inspired and make an undergraduate course out of it...Yes, you've read some of this before, but not all of it, and not told so well, or with such passion and humor." 
(Stuart Pimm Trends in Ecology and Evolution)

One of the essential books of 2008.... The Ehrlichs walk you through a basic course in evolution and genetics before moving into a cultural evolution and its devastating impact on ecosystems, worldwide.
(Nuvo Weekly)

In The Dominant Animal, the Ehrlichs step back and analyse the big picture, looking carefully at how humans have evolved to dominance and, in the process, are laying waste the planet. Their message is that our technological advances aren't matched by how well we treat one another or the environment around us.
(Vancouver Sun)

Imagine a UN Millennium Assessment of Human Behavior! This an important and sobering work…

Is there an armchair scientist on your gift list? Then you can't go wrong with The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment by Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich. This fascinating book is not for a lightweight; it's filled with hypotheses, insight and ideas for thinkers. This is a perfect gift for someone who loves to study culture, but will also be a great for anyone who's trying to "go green" this year."
(Eagle Tribune)

"This sparkling book is a great guide to what's essential about humans, the world, and how they affect each other. Along the way, you'll pick up delicious tidbits such as what Mussolini's basic problem was, and why we are so sure that tiny sequoia seeds grow into 300-foot sequoia trees even though no one has ever seen it happen."



(Jared Diamond, Professor of Geography at UCLA and author of prize-winning books such as Collapse and Guns, Germs, and Steel)

“No other scientific couple could produce a book of this brilliance on where we came from and where we're going. The Ehrlichs, who have been at the cutting edge of the science, have interwoven evolutionary history and our environmental dilemma into a compelling and vital story.”


(John P. Holdren, Director, The Woods Hole Research Center and Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy, Harvard University)

“This is a grand tour of the current state of ecological science, and a tour de force of observation, insight, and suggestion.”



(Bill McKibben author of The Bill McKibben Reader)

"This is a brilliant and fascinating account of how we became the planet's ruling species and now the major force determining the future of evolution. The Ehrlichs' broad perspective and lucid prose bring fresh understanding to what's going on in the world today.  Everyone should read this book.” 

(Peter H. Raven President, Missouri Botanical Garden)

One of the "Best of 2008 Sci-Tech Books"
(Library Journal)

“No one has more authority to write on these matters than the husband-and-wife team of Stanford biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich. For decades now they have been documenting and warning of humans' effects on the environment. Their new book, The Dominant Animal, continues their chronicle of the damage we have done to our home…. This is an important book,with much information and some really stimulating ideas. We need to build on these ideas, because the world is in an environmental mess and things are not getting better."
(Washington Post)

About the Author

Paul R. Ehrlich is Bing Professor of Population Studies and professor of biology at Stanford University and a fellow of the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics. The author of Human Natures, The Population Bomb, and many other books, he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of numerous international honors, including the Crafoord Prize and the MacArthur “genius award.”

            Anne H. Ehrlich is affiliated with Stanford's Biology Department and Center for Conservation Biology, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has served on the board of the Sierra Club and other conservation organizations, has coauthored more than ten books with her husband, and is a recipient of the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement and the United Nations Environment Programme/Sasakawa Environment Prize.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Rob R. Dunn on October 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I read this book several times. Each time I was surprised. The Dominant Animal begins by considering the ways in which humans influence the environment and the environment, modified by humans, shapes everything else. The book then parades through the delightful minds of Paul and Anne Ehrlich. In that parade one will see, more clearly presented than you will find anywhere else, the intertwined stories of human culture, evolution, and human actions toward and in the environment and how those have changed through time. In the parade one will find Darwin, Wallace, and the early history of evolution alongside traditional peoples living as hunter- gatherers in villages, sequoia trees and tangled banks.
The Ehrlichs' tone in the Dominant Animal is both friendly and approachable. Again and again the reader feels as though she has had something logical and intuitive revealed to her. Natural Selection, in the Ehrlichs' hands seems obvious, as does much else in the story of life and the human domination of it. It is easy to find oneself nodding again and again with what this book has to say. The surprise is what the clearly explained facts lead to; the train wreck of our current situation. Every time I read the book, I find myself forgetting what is coming and then there it is, in front of me, the other train.

It is clear early in the book that much is wrong in the world and that those problems have tremendous consequences. Yet this not a doomsday book. Most of the book is actually about the basics of ecology and evolution. There are chapters on evolution, culture, cultural evolution, the interactions between genes and the environment, and even how we perceive the world and how that perception influences our decisions.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By D. Cullenward on September 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Paul and Anne Ehrlich have done an incredible job assembling a coherent look at one of the world's biggest issues: the relationship between humanity and the natural environment. "The Dominant Animal" puts humanity into frame, connecting our species' immense accomplishments with the history of human cultural evolution, the distribution and use of resources across the globe, and the serious challenges facing our continued existence. By no means are these topics simple or uncontroversial, but the Ehrlichs bring decades of research and detailed support to illustrate their ideas, and the result is a book that is appropriate for newcomers to environmental issues, as well as those who make it their lives' work.

I often hear people seek to discredit the Ehrlichs' writing (including some reviewers at this site) as though their efforts are nothing more than ideology. That attitude is unfortunate. Whether or not one agrees with its conclusions, the most remarkable thing about this book is the transparency of its arguments. The Ehrlichs make clear distinctions between mainstream scientific thought, and where they have an opinion about an unresolved issue, or about ethical matters. I hope that skeptical readers will find a copy at their library and give it a chance; it's the kind of book that wants you reflect, on your own terms.

In the coming years, environmental issues will grow in importance. There's no better place to start a conversation about how to respond than with this book.
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30 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Lena R. on July 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Paul and Anne Ehrlich's THE DOMINANT ANIMAL is not only the most sensible and up-to-date book I've read about sustainability; it's also well organized and well written, a true delight to read. As the bad news increasingly piles up -- mass extinctions on land and in the oceans, decreased availability of cheap energy, increased unemployment, floods and droughts leading to crop failures, polar ice caps melting, and famines, to mention only a few -- it becomes crucial that we quickly make informed and sensible choices. THE DOMINANT ANIMAL provides well researched and balanced pros and cons about the most important issues facing us today. I can only agree with the solutions the authors favor, from the unbridled consumption issue (my current line of work) to their analysis of nuclear energy, pp. 306-308 (pertinent to my past life as a physicist). Though the news are grim, I have great hope that if books such as this are widely read we'll be able save ourselves and our grandchildren from a very harsh future that is already encroaching on us.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By C. E. Holdren on September 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It is sad that C. Hardin, instead of reading and reviewing "The Dominant Animal," simply offers an unsubstantiated attack on its author. Ehrlich has written dozens of books and hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers, and received virtually every honor the scientific community can offer for his work in ecology, evolution, and environmental science. "Dominant Animal" is a brilliant book, by far the best volume ever written explaining where we came from and where we're going. Despite the enormous breadth of the topics covered, the book is concise and an easy read. It explains everything from how genetic and cultural evolution led us to dominate the earth to why climate change, destruction of biodiversity, toxic chemicals, and vast new epidemics could end civilization as we know it. And, as a glance at the acknowledgements would show, the book has been reviewed by the cream of the scientific community. "Dominant Animal" fills in the gaps largely ignored by our educational system. I wish it were a required book for every college freshman; it should certainly be read by every politician - especially presidential (and vice-presidential) candidates.
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