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VINE VOICEon 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. Reminding us that chemical fertilizers helped humanity avert the very real possibility of mass hunger a century ago, Mr. Lynas thinks we should suspend at least some of our concerns about genetic engineering and apply our best scientists to the task of producing a new generation of food crops that might be able to produce their own nitrogen. Similarly, while we wait for solar, wind and other renewable energy souces to come to market, we should not rule out geoengineering solutions to help us mitigate the effects of global warming. While there is probably more here to upset commited environmentalists than anyone else, one is inclined to agree with the author that waiting for the perfect while the earth's life support systems approach dangerous tipping points might well be asking for too much.

Nonetheless, there is ample room to quibble with Mr. Lynas. For example, Mr. Lynas' contention that modern organic farming methods are insufficient to feed the U.K. (if not the world) is disproven in Simon Fairlie's Meat: A Benign Extravagance. Mr. Lynas seems far too keen to trust the future of vital ecosystems such as tropical rainforests to the financial markets (see Breakfast Of Biodiversity: The Political Ecology of Rain Forest Destruction for a far superior analyis including practical solutions). Nor is it obvious that Mr. Lynas' exotic geoengineering schemes are really all that necessary when the low-tech solution of biochar may be available (see The Biochar Debate: Charcoal's Potential to Reverse Climate Change and Build Soil Fertility). However, Mr. Lynas can be forgiven on account of his courage to open up the debate; and most importantly, for giving us hope that people might still be able to come together to solve our most pressing environmental problems.

I highly recommend this informative, pragmatic and inspiring book to everyone.
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on 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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on January 3, 2012
The book is meant to rebuke environmentalists who think corporate economic development may have environmental problems. The beginning chapters forcefully state environmental problems of biodiversity and climate change. Then the solutions include: A lot more nuclear reactors, pesticides, and genetic engineering. In case you thought Fukushima might cause one to think again about nuclear power, Lyas' answer is that it was all media hype, everything was really under control. And "experts say" genetic engineering is safe.
The underlying corporate technophile premise is that we should ramp up technology to give all future billions of humans the same lifestyle we have. Lots of luck with preserving biodiversity. And what other reason could there be for such a goal than corporate economic benefit? How could seemingly environmentalist National Geographic publish such a book? National Geographic is closely entwined with Rupert Murdoch's corporate conservative Newscorp--Newscorp owns 75% of NG's TV stations.
This book is probably worth reading for environmentalists. It could be our future, for as long as that lasts.
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on January 27, 2013
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 are certain limits to how much we can change stuff, like the level of atmosphere CO2. He then proposes ways to avoid cross these boundaries.

The major theme of the book is that people dont have to give up modern lifestyle in order for society to be sustainable. Things just need to be changed. He criticizes alot of traditional environmentalist views, such as anti-nuclear, saying they are actually counter productive to trying to achieve sustainability.

He is not a scientist, but rather a journalist, so the text isnt that dense. However, he does cite a lot of scientific sources, which gives his claims credulity.

The only real criticism I have is that he tends to be repetitive, and by the end of the book i just started skimming to finish it, but all in all a very thought provoking book.
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on November 15, 2011
For years I have felt the weight of the fact that people will not change their habits and that we cannot function as modern societies without growth - so how do we prevent the calamities that have befallen every other age once they move past the 350ppm planetary boundary scientists acknowledge is the crucial game changer?

Lynas's argument for nuclear has tipped my lifelong opposition to the energy source and has at the same time given me a way to see a future where we can have growth and a stable climate. Simply put, I never thought that would happen.

And as he says, evidence about the reality of global warming is far more overwhelming today than it was about the threat to the ozone layer in the 1980's, when the USA took political leadership.

I am yet to be persuaded on his GM argument.
But on nuclear and the need for clean energy that can transform emissions throughout our world, I say, 'bring it on'.

A fantastic gift for all republicans.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Mark Lynas' THE GOD SPECIES didnt tell me what I wanted to hear from one of the top leaders of the Green Movement. By the time he suggested the world move full tilt into Nuclear Energy as an alternate energy source, and insisted that genetically engineered vegtables, and non organic farming was the way to feed the planet, I threw the book down, refusing to consider anything more about it. Actually, my knee jerk reaction was to consider Lynas a sellout. Wasnt this the guy who opposed genetically engineered plants a decade previous? Didnt he protest the building of new nuclear power plants? However, his scientific investigations and arguments are irrefutable. If you give Lynas his due, you cant help but reconsider your OWN world view about the Green movement. So, that's what i did--I changed the fundamental way i viewed the world, due to this book. How often can ANYONE make that claim about a book?

Concerning Nuclear energy, we in the discover in the "Climate Change" chapter, that science has defined a limit to how far the world can sustain a change in CO2 ppm, without going past the tipping point. That boundry point is 350 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, and presently we are at 391 with no end in sight. In his book SIX DEGREES: OUR FUTURE ON A HOTTER PLANET, Lynas talks about what this added warmth will do. (Maybe you saw the TV special based on it?) Lynas argues that if we are this far past the Global warming tipping point, then whatever can be done as soon as possible to limit the extent of the inevitable catastrophe, the better for the world's future. As much as i hate the dangers of depending on nuclear energy for energy, I hate even more the prospects of a world too hot to grow food, and of Earth's oceans 240 feet deeper. As far as Genetically engineered food, the facts show that if the whole world switched to organic farming, then food yeilds would be depleted by half. Also, genetically engineered foods can have higher vitamin yields, require far less fertilizer to grow, are less prone to insect attack, and have higher disease resistence. Since the run off of fertilizer is causing huge plankton blooms and dead zones in the oceans, and requires the use of petroleum to produce, developing food crops that require less fertilizer to grow, makes lots of sense. The GOD SPECIES devotes one chapter each to Biodiversity loss, Climate Change, Nitrogen Cycle, Land use change, Global Fresh water, Chemical pollution, Atmospheric Aerosols, Ocean acidification, and Ozone depletion. These 9 chapters are named for the nine scientifically determined ECOLOGICAL LIMITS or tipping points, 7 of which have been quantified. Three of these tipping points have already been reached, so the game is more deadly than it was back in the Green party first outlined their goals. Humanity is playing GOD with the future of mankind's ability to continue living, as well as the other 11 million species which share our planet. That's why Lynas refers to us as THE GOD SPECIES. We no longer can look at enviormental hazards only as they pertain to humanity. The GREEN MOVEMENT has to switch to an "EARTH SCALE SYSTEM".

THE GOD SPECIES is a very difficult, challenging read. Not because its filled with factoids, and scientific investigations, tho there are plenty of footnotes and documentation for everything discussed and revealed. No, this book is a cold hard slap in the face,just what we need. Lynas isnt challenging the so called third world/developing nations to forfeit the nessecities and luxuries that we take for granted in the USA and Europe. In fact, Lynas believes that ecological limits dont nessacarily have to constrain population and economic growth. After all, do you want government to limit YOUR family size? Or say you are required to use mass transit? However, if Gaia is going to survive the "Antropocene Mass Extinction" (going on presently), and what could easily end up being the complete melt down of the Antarctic-Greenland Ice Shelf, then humanity must immediately address these nine limits. Altho imposing these manditory limits was attempted at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009, China, India and Saudi Arabia halted the passing of any legislature that could have restricted global emmissions. That was the last great hope of limiting global warming by 3 to 4 degrees. Lynas was at that Copenhagen Summit with all the world leaders, and reports first hand how the talks broke down. I finished this book angry, scared, and maybe a bit more determined than ever to do what i could to limit my Carbon Footprint. Maybe THE GOD SPECIES wont change the way big money is destroying the world's flora and fauna, but at least I have the intellectual awareness to realize whats happening and who's responsible. Isnt that the first step we need to take as a collective Green Movement? I recommend everybody who cares to read this book.
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VINE VOICEon September 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The title of this book is bound to infuriate the very religious among us, those who believe that a God created everything; that He created mankind to worship him, and that there "some things we are not meant to know." That we musn't "play God." (And as far as that goes, we musn't. Play around with chicken hearts in a Petrie dish and next thing you know you've got a gigantic chicken heart devouring the planet. (An episode of Lights Out, for those of you who don't know their radio horror history). Or we'll have clone farms where people will store many copies of themselves just in case they need the occasional kidney or eye somewhere down the line...and who cares what happens to these clones once these parts are removed? (Jefferson 55).

But that's biotechnology. In The God Species, author Mark Lynas is well aware that we as humans, in this Anthropocene Age (Age of Humans) aren't doing nearly as good a job of protecting our planet - our only home - as we should be able to do considering the fact that we are an intelligent species. Unlike animals, we know what will happen if we do Action A. It will lead to Action B. It may then lead to Action C or D, and we as humans have the intelligence to forsee those actions! The fact that a lot of people don't bother to think into the future is a literal crime.

(I'm thinking of those fishermen on islands that were once tropical paradise. Rather than fish the hard way, they'll drop dynamite or poor bleach into coral reefs to drive out the fish. Instant easy harvest. But then the reef dies and the rest of the fish go away, and there goes the fisherman's livelihood. All because they wanted to take the easy way to begin with.)

Mark Lynas is an environmentalist, a Green, but as he says, "Central to the standard Green creed is the ida that playing God is dangerous. Hence the reflexive opposition to new technologies from splitting the animal to cloning cattle. My thesis is the reverse: playing God (in the sense of being intelligent designers) at a planetary level is essential if creation is not to be irreparably damaged or even destroyed by humans unwittingly deploying our newfound powers in disastrous ways."

Lynas' book is divided into 9 "Boundaries" (or topics): Biodiversity, Climate Change, Nitrogen, Land Use, Freshwater, Toxics, Aerosols, Ocean Acidification and the Ozone Layer. For each topic he gives its history - the history of what mankind has done and is doing to it, and how it can be engineered for the better. He shares information on how governments and businesses in various countries are working on their own Green programs to save drinking water, limit pollution, but explains that there's so much more to do, especially in developing countries where ability to implement such green ideas is limited.

His final chapter is simply titled "Managing the Planet" in which he summarizes his discussion of each Planetary Boundary.

Lynas' book is described as controversial. That's because, although he is a Green, he goes against the Green theory that constraints must be placed on humans as to what we can do in our own homes, in our own towns and cities, in our own countries. According to Lynas (and the scientists who make up the Planetary Boundaries Expert Group) "as long as the thresholds are not crossed, humanity has the freedom to pursue long-term social and economic development. Our global civilization can continue to flourish indefinitely within the "safe operating space" provided by the planetary boundaries."

Managing our planet - our only home - can be divided roughly into two camps. Those who think that God created this vast planet and made it too big to fail, regardless of what man can throw at it, and those who think that regardless of how the Earth was created, 4 billion people can destroy it pretty easily - or if not destroy it at least remove all the vibrancy and life from it.

Lynas is of the belief that mankind can, and is, destroying our planet, but that we can also save it. We have the technology.

Question is, will we utilize it?
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on January 17, 2013
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. Six Degrees is specifically a well-done survey of climate change research. The God Species is a broader look at challenges to the planet that follows the planetary boundaries research. It is a reminder that we both challenged by more than we may think and capable of more than we might imagine. It's good work.

Lynas pulls no punches and he is no PC green. I agreed with him about a lot, but I didn't agree on everything, and occasionally had to put it down and think for a bit, but that's the point. To me, this is the most important conversation of our time, and it is up to us to have it. This book should be read by everyone.
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VINE VOICEon April 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Environmentalism is both an emotional and politically driven subject and so it is hard to find a book that appeases everyone. I for one do not agree with a great many of the stories I read coming from the activist "green" groups. However, I found "The God Species" by Mark Lynas to be a refreshing departure from the usual arguments I read regarding the subject of "environmental meltdown" with little or no answers accept from those who would have us return to the stone age (no nuclear power because of radiation leakage: no windmills because birds are being killed by the blades).

In fact Mr. Lynas tries very hard to steer clear of the ideology or politics that seems to always pervade any discussion on the seriousness of the stewardship of our planet. However, Lynas takes a cheap shot when he resorts to disparagingly mentioning Newt Gingrich in his Preface.

In "The God Species" delves into what he considers the nine environmental tipping points of biodiversity which he covers in the nine chapters he labels as "Boundaries." Each boundary (or chapter) gives the reader a rundown of the actions that could be taken as well as the arguments for and against each proposal. The chapters in order are: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Nitrogen, Land Use, Freshwater, Toxics, Aerosols, Ocean Acidification, and Ozone Layer. He systematically looks at the social and economic possibilities that could result and therefore have an effect on all of humanity.

Surprisingly, Lynas does agree that economic growth and productivity should not be hampered by measures taken to improve our environmental condition. Still, his solutions do not take into consideration the human condition of greed and exploitation or the various different and belligerent forms of governments in the world. But, he does sheepishly take aim on our system of government when he wrote "Nor does it necessarily mean ditching capitalism" (Italics are mine). He does not present a better form of government which could sustain economic growth and productivity while improving the environment.

I take issue with Lynas when he favors a world-wide regulatory policing of our environment; I reject anything that promotes giving up our sovereignty to a U.N type control.

In conclusion Lynas does have some merit, because of its subject it will be difficult to appeal to everyone. I found it hard to agree with most of what he wrote, but at least he tried to put forth some proposals that could find common ground. I give it 3 stars. I recommend it if you can come to the subject with an open mind, and if not you will learn something about how the other side thinks.
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VINE VOICEon 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. On the other hand, he believes that per capita GDP can grow for everyone on the planet and that the wealth will distribute itself evenly (see Steady-State Economics: Second Edition With New Essays). He likes urbanization, believing that it will lead to efficiencies and slower population growth. He seems blithely unaware of the immiseration of the many for the benefit of the few, which seems to be the undeniable trend at work in the world economy (see Planet of Slums). Nor does he seem aware that the growing instability in global capitalism is likely to produce a lot more misery in the near future. It is also somewhat appalling that he can promote the privatization of water after the fiasco in Bolivia (see Even the Rain).

Lynas' most astounding venture into wishful thinking is his leap onto the nuclear bandwagon. He considers those who oppose nuclear power to be as misguided as global warming deniers. Considering the behavior of both governments and corporations with respect to safety, transparency, and nuclear proliferation, the thought of building enough nuclear power stations to replace all coal-fired plants fills me with dread. Lynas seems to place a lot of confidence in regulation, but he seems not to have heard of regulatory capture: the way regulators come to serve industry rather than the public good. Nor does he consider what kind of power plant is more likely to be targeted by terrorists.

Lynas never lets more than a few pages go by without criticizing the environmental movement: for hypocrisy, for being unrealistic, for alienating conservatives, for advocating a dreary future. He castigates pessimists without acknowledging that pessimists have made environmental science possible. But I find his optimism both unrealistic and alienating. When Fox News Channel embraces the notion of planetary boundaries, then I'll allow myself some optimism.
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