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The God Species: Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans [Hardcover]

by Mark Lynas
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 4, 2011 142620891X 978-1426208911
We humans are the God species, both the creators and destroyers of life on this planet. As we enter a new geological era - the Anthropocene - our collective power now overwhelms and dominates the major forces of nature.

But from the water cycle to the circulation of nitrogen and carbon through the entire Earth system, we are coming dangerously close to destroying the planetary life-support systems that sustain us. In this controversial new book, Royal Society Science Books Prize winner Mark Lynas shows us how we must use our new mastery over nature to save the planet from ourselves.

Taking forward the work of a brilliant new group of Earth-system scientists who have mapped out our real 'planetary boundaries', Lynas draws up a radical manifesto calling for the increased use of environmentally-friendly technologies like genetic engi- neering and nuclear power as part of a global effort to use humanity's best tools to protect and nurture the biosphere.

Ecological limits are real, but economic limits are not, Lynas contends. We can and must feed a richer population of nine billion people in decades to come, whilst also respecting the nine planetary boundaries - from biodiversity to ocean acidification - now identified and quantified by scientists.

Ripping up years of environmental orthodoxy, he reveals how the prescriptions of the current green movement are likely to hin- der as much as help our vitally-needed effort to use science and technology to play God and save the planet.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“If there is one reason to read Mark Lynas​’ book The God Species, it’s because of his exposition of the ‘planetary boundaries’ concept.” –Scientific American
 
“I believe it would behoove anyone who has an opinion about the future of our planet to read The God Species.” –Forbes 
 
“Lynas’s book is at the top of my must-read pile.” –Dot Earth blog, Andrew Revkin, New York Times
 
“An accurate portrayal of the state of the planet and a call to action using all means possible before boundaries are crossed with irreversible results.” –Kirkus
 
“Readers who were previously unaware of the scope of humanity’s effects on the world—on its climate, its biogeochemical cycles, the chemistry of its oceans, the color of its sky, the flow of its rivers, the number of its species and more—may find themselves shocked by its relentless exposition. Meanwhile many readers who are already alarmed by the state of the environment will find themselves shocked by what Mr. Lynas wants to do about it…his views are certainly not yet common currency, and…that makes his position both more interesting and more compelling.” –The Economist
 
“For all the angst this book may cause his Green allies, there can be no doubting his seriousness about climate change…This is a clear-eyed, hard-headed assessment of the ecological challenges facing us - and all the more bracing for it...vigorously provocative” –London Evening Standard
 
 "The power of Lynas’s voice comes not just from his famously deep research... but also his authority as a campaigner." --Sunday Times of London
“The most attention-grabbing passages in the book come in Lynas’s denunciations of the green movement.” –The Guardian
 “Lynas is to be commended for producing a work that challenges so many green movement taboos and for recognising the importance of hard science – such as nuclear power and genetic engineering – and sound economics as potential saviours of the planet. This is an insightful, honest book.” –Guardian.co.uk
 
“offer[s] planet-scale strategies for a sustainable future…sure to spark debate…at the heart of the book is the optimistic belief that humans are capable of understanding Nature and able to repair the damage that we have done and continue to do…” –Technorati Green
 
“Eco-activist and journalist Mark Lynas, famous for shoving a pie in the face of sane skeptic Bjorn Lomborg, has…changed some of his positions…Nuclear power? Certainly part of the solution…As is genetic modification…That's a win for science, for the future of policy and responsible stewardship of mother Earth.” –Science2
 
“Mark Lynas has written the clearest exposition so far of the environmental choices we face…He is wonderfully sane and cogent on difficult issues.” –American Public Media

About the Author

Mark Lynas has worked for nearly a decade as a specialist on climate change, and is author of three books on the subject: High Tide: News from a Warming World (2004), Carbon Calculator (2007), and Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet (2007).

High Tide was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Award for Non-Fiction and short-listed for the Guardian First Book Award. Six Degrees was long- listed for the Orwell Prize in 2008 and won the Royal Society Prize for Science Books in the same year. The book has now been translated into 22 languages around the world. 

Six Degrees is published in the US by National Geographic, which has also made a television documentary based on the book and broadcast on the National Geographic Channel internationally.

Lynas writes a fortnightly column for the New Statesman magazine, and is a regular contributor to the Guardian. He is also a Visiting Research Associate at Oxford University's School of Geography and the Environment.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 142620891X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426208911
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #700,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lynas exhibits an odd mixture of realism and denial September 29, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Mark Lynas is a well-informed journalist on the issue of climate change. There is much of value in his latest book, including the uncompromising assertion that we (that is we, the human species) need to stop using carbon-rich fossil fuels COMPLETELY as rapidly as possible.

So far so good. We must phase out the production of CO2 by burning fossil fuels in order to stop runaway global warming and catastrophic climate change. I disagree with Lynas's vehement promotion of nuclear power as a source of electricity. But the deeper problem is that Lynas is in denial about the possibility of continuing economic growth.

Herman Daly and other ecological economists argue that growth as material throughput simply cannot continue -- we must move to a steady-state economy in order to stabilize the relationship between humans and the ecosystem. Qualitative growth can continue, but not quantitative growth. Infinite growth is simply impossible in a finite ecosystem.

Lynas seems to think that this is a choice. He simply fails to understand that mainstream economics contradicts physics and biology. Endless growth is not just a bad choice, it is an impossibility. This is the conclusion of one of the more important books of our time, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update (see my review).

See anything by Daly, including his classic Steady-State Economics, on the economics, and Thomas Homer-Dixon's The Upside of Down on making the best of social breakdown, which seems increasingly likely with every passing year that radical structural changes are avoided.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An argument against waiting for the perfect October 17, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"The God Species" by Mark Lynas suggests that humanity, as the earth's dominant species, must face up to its environmental responsibilities in a timely, pragmatic and life-affirming manner. As a veteran environmental activist and consultant to the low-lying Republic of Maldives (an island nation that is severely threatened by climate change and rising sea levels), Mr. Lynas believes that urgent solutions to the environmental crisis must not be held captive to ideology or politics. In this passionate and intelligent book, the author presents a positive and politically-centrist vision of how humanity can and must use its ingenuity to save the planet.

Mr. Lynas' thesis holds that the Anthropocene era has arrived -- whether religious fundamentalists on the right or deep green advocates on the left care to admit it, or not. As Mr. Lynas discusses the nine environmental tipping points of biodiversity, climate change, nitrogen, land use, freshwater, toxics, aerosols, ocean acidification, and ozone, we come to understand that one way or another, humanity's actions (and inactions) matter a great deal. For example, Mr. Lynas helps us see that the decision to not build a nuclear power plant must be weighed against the cost of burning coal and accumulating more excess CO2 in the atmosphere. Mr. Lynas believes quite sensibly that conservatives must recognize that the indefinite and unlimited use of fossil fuels is not possible for the planet; while progressives must recognize the usefulness and (in his view) very limited downside risk of deploying nuclear power on a wide scale.

When not discussing the science around environmental issues, Mr. Lynas is keen to break through the ideological impasse that he feels has kept viable solutions off the table as time grows short.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Book No One Will Like October 4, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Review of The God Species

Mark Lynas has succeeded in writing a book that no one will like. Republicans will reject it because he acknowledges climate change and favors a world-wide regulatory regime. Progressives will reject it because he pushes nuclear power, favors GDP and population growth, and encourages privatization of water supplies. Everyone else will be turned off by the notion that humans can play God with the planet.

Lynas begins with the work of the Planetary Boundaries Expert Group and their 2009 paper (see [...]) identifying nine planetary boundaries within which humanity should be able to operate safely. The group includes NASA's James Hansen, so it is no surprise that one of the boundaries is 350 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, a limit that we have already crossed. Other boundaries include ocean acidification, stratospheric ozone, and global freshwater use. Crossing any of these boundaries is likely to trigger worldwide environmental changes with calamitous consequences for humanity.

The title of the book reveals its key thesis: humans have no choice but to play God by managing the planetary environment. Merely limiting human effects on the environment will not suffice: we are too numerous, our energy and food needs are too great, and ecosystems are already in deep trouble. This conclusion is unassailable, but the book has a few problems.

Any attempt to grapple with the future of the planet devolves into an argument about which potential changes are realistic and which are pipe dreams. Lynas makes clear that he considers limits on population growth, GDP growth, and energy usage utterly unrealistic.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lynas is Clear-Headed on Today's Issues
Well researched and well referenced. Mark Lynas's 'The God Species' follows his other offerings very nicely. Read more
Published 1 month ago by raggedbandman
1.0 out of 5 stars the literary equivalent of your worst nightmare date
I almost made the mistake of buying this book – it IS published by National Geographic. Fortunately, the overblown title prompted me to give it a test drive through our local... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Annielaurie Burke
2.0 out of 5 stars money is not real in the same way as energy
altho i haven't read this book, i've studied mechanical engineering and economics in academia.
we are fossil fuel addicts because fossil fuels are very powerful. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bluestocking
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book!!!
A must read for every human on the planet - regardless of ANY religious affiliation, ethnicity, age, station, education level, language etc. Read more
Published 8 months ago by D. K. Huenergardt
4.0 out of 5 stars Things to Think About For Everyone
It's hard to categorize Lynas because his views cross many political and environmental boundaries. This book should make anyone think and it's nice to read something by an... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Book Fanatic
4.0 out of 5 stars God save the World
Environmentalism is both an emotional and politically driven subject and so it is hard to find a book that appeases everyone. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Michael P. Lefand
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking
This book is really good and really made me think. He pretty much bases the whole thing off of an idea that scientists came up with called the planetary boundaries, in which there... Read more
Published 15 months ago by CJ Cobb
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful part of a critical conversation
I just finished Mark Lynas's "The God Species: How the Planet can Survive in the Age of Humans." I read his Six Degrees late last year and recommended it highly. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Brenda
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting combination of ideas
Another reviewer titled his review "A book no one will like" - and that's probably pretty accurate. There is something in this book to alienate nearly everyone. Read more
Published 16 months ago by MagicSkip
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, thought provoking book.
I think that most of us can comprehend the fact that all of our activity is shaping the planet in some meaningful way. Read more
Published 18 months ago by microeconomics
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