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The Future of Life Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 8, 2002
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The eminent Harvard naturalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Wilson marshals all the prodigious powers of his intellect and imagination in this impassioned call to ensure the future of life. Opening with an imagined conversation with Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond, he writes that he has come "to explain to you, and in reality to others and not least to myself, what has happened to the world we both have loved." Based on a love affair with the natural world that spans 70 years, Wilson combines lyrical descriptions with dire warnings and remarkable stories of flora and fauna on the edge of extinction with hard economics. How many species are we really losing? Is environmentalism truly contrary to economic development? And how can we save the planet? Wilson has penned an eloquent plea for the need for a global land ethic and offers the strategies necessary to ensure life on earth based on foresight, moral courage, and the best tools that science and technology can provide. -- Lesley Reed
From Publishers Weekly
Legendary Harvard biologist Wilson (On Human Nature; The Ants; etc.) founded sociobiology, the controversial branch of evolutionary biology, and won the Pulitzer Prize twice. This volume, his manifesto to the public at large, is a meditation on the splendor of our biosphere and the dangers we pose to it. In graceful, expressive and vigorous prose, Wilson argues that the challenge of the new century will be "to raise the poor to a decent standard of living worldwide while preserving as much of the rest of life as possible." For as America consumes and the Third World tries to keep up, we lose biological diversity at an alarming rate. But the "trajectory" of species loss depends on human choice. If current levels of consumption continue, half the planet's remaining species will be gone by mid-century. Wilson argues that the "great dilemma of environmental reasoning" stems from the conflict between environmentalism and economics, between long-term and short-term values. Conservation, he writes, is necessary for our long-term health and prosperity. Loss of biodiversity translates into economic losses to agriculture, medicine and the biotech industries. But the "bottleneck" of overpopulation and overconsumption can be safely navigated: adequate resources exist, and in the end, success or failure depends upon an ethical decision. Global conservation will succeed or fail depending on the cooperation between government, science and the private sector, and on the interplay of biology, economics and diplomacy. "A civilization able to envision God and to embark on the colonization of space," Wilson concludes, "will surely find the way to save the integrity of this planet and the magnificent life it harbors."
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Add to that, Earth's life-cycle mechanics being thrown out of whack by global warming and dwindling green cover resources that help regulate it, water scarcity, pollution, and we have a dire pan of worms on our hands. Wilson maintains, however, that our vast accumulated reservoir of technology and abundant earth resource-cycle knowledge can help us through the bottleneck and on to a more rational, thoughtful, and harmonious future with Earth's regulation processes influencing all of our ethical and moral guidelines in our activities on Earth.
On the front cover is a beautiful art rendering of what, at first appears to be an expertly produced flower arrangement. But taking a closer look at it reveals a collage of plants and animals that are extinct or on the verge of extinction and then on pages viii to x is a diagram and list of the cover species and listed by common and taxonomic names.
Next, is the Prologue which is a letter to Henry David Thoreau. It is actually a dialogue of Wilson having a posthumous conversation with Thoreau at Walden's Pond where in part, he explains to H.D.T what state of environmental affairs we are now in- very moving!
Wilson's writing style is very gentle, sometimes poetic, and an easy flowing discourse packed with compelling punch lines for thoughtful consideration of the subject matter at hand: hopeful survival of all Earth's flora/fauna. And he posits this can be accomplished in dialogue such as:
"In order to pass through the bottleneck, a global land ethic is urgently needed." and, "Surely the rest of life matters. Surely our stewardship is our only hope. We will be wise to listen to the heart, then act with rational intention and all the tools we can gather and bring to bear." And, "The great dilemma of environmental reasoning stems from this conflict between short-term and long-term values."
For those that are familiar with the works of Thomas Berry- "The Dream of the Earth" and "The Great Work", Chet Raymo- "The Path", et al., Hawkin and Lovins- "Natural Capitalism" and many more such fine thinkers and doers, will no doubt be impressed with the ground that Wilson covers with his very realistic, but guarded pronouncement that we humans will get through the bottleneck if we immediately start listening to the voices of reason and start embracing what life-style changes we need in order enhance our survival possibilities. To be sure, it is a crap shoot in our survival odds, but Wilson helps bump-up those odds with his guarded enthusiasm based on a life-time of biology and environmental study. There is an abundance of resources and organizations mentioned all through this great work. Thank you, Prof. E. O. Wilson!