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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We Have the Technology, September 24, 2011
This review is from: The God Species: Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans (Hardcover)
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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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Initial post: Nov 5, 2011 12:19:52 PM PDT
T. Stroll says:
Good review. I first heard of Mr. Lynas this morning (Nov. 5, 2011), when I heard him on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's "Quirks and Quarks" science radio program. It was one of the most interesting "Quirks and Quarks" interviews that I've heard. Mr. Lynas gave the impression of having a fine analytical mind and I look forward to reading his book.
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