- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Liveright; 1 edition (April 4, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1631492527
- ISBN-13: 978-1631492525
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life 1st Edition
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“An audacious idea that might jump-start a lagging conversation about a burning issue…[I]f Half-Earth takes us any closer to sparking greater effort, it will cement Wilson’s already remarkable legacy.”
- Mike Weilbacher, Philadelphia Inquirer
“Wilson’s passion for the planet shines through on these pages. He looks at life in its broadest, grandest sweep…Wilson is a thinker in the tradition of Alexander von Humboldt.”
- Matthew Price, The National
“Few experts have offered such an exuberant and optimistic plan for dealing with [climate change] as biologist Edward O. Wilson…The strength of his argument lies in his ability to elegantly unveil the bigger picture, and to define and examine what in our essential human nature has led us to this point…[W]e need Wilson’s reminder that we are not demigods, but are instead, as he puts it, ‘a biological species tied to this particular biological world.’”
- Jessi Phillips, Sierra
“As an outline of our terrible ecological plight, it does a first-class job.”
- Robin McKie, Guardian
About the Author
Edward O. Wilson is widely recognized as one of the world’s preeminent biologists and naturalists. The author of more than thirty books, including The Social Conquest of Earth, The Meaning of Human Existence, and Letters to a Young Scientist, Wilson is a professor emeritus at Harvard University. The winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, he lives with his wife, Irene Wilson, in Lexington, Massachusetts.
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Top customer reviews
As I have written elsewhere, it took the Earth four billion years to reach the Holocene, an era where climate, ice, water and life achieved a state of pleasant equilibrium, with jet streams and ocean currents arranged in a virtuous circle. In just the last 150 years, Homo sapiens has upset the entire system, killing off the Holocene in favor of the Anthropocene, in which one invasive species rules, and any other species that does not add to its immediate benefit can be eliminated. And if even if it does add to its benefit, if it hasn’t been domesticated, it can still face extinction. We are clear-cutting the biosphere.
The book is a relentless, hardhitting – make that pounding – indictment of our custodianship. We are far worse than negligent; we are malevolent. We think it does no harm to remove a species from its environs – and its role. The way it really works, Wilson says, is there are no species living on the periphery; every species depends on other species or is critical to their survival. Our total disregard of this simple rule causes unpredictable disaster.
Wilson has been a naturalist all his long life, and it pains him to find things in this state. His childlike appreciation comes through, often overtaking his anger with the wonder of various species and how they live and contribute so differently. That we lose them daily before we even know how they fit in is criminal to him.
Wilson has introduced me to an ugly new subspecies. I will call it the Anthropocene Apologist. AA appears to be a subset of scientists and ignorant people whose attitude is yes, we’ve already wrecked this planet, so let’s just take what we want now and not worry about it. AAs say we should welcome all the invasive species because they fill gaps left by species we made extinct. That they will figure out what to do about the mess when the time comes. It infuriates Wilson. He keeps bringing it up in different contexts, probably because after a lifetime of watching the degradation, he can’t believe there are actual AA scientists promoting it.
His solution is to set aside far more than the 15% now dedicated to wilderness areas and parks. He says we need 50%. This is obviously not going to happen, as populations explode at the same time as land mass disappears (in the rise of the oceans), and less of what’s left is habitable. The book ends very weakly with a plea: Do no further harm to the biosphere.
One of his most profound quotable quotes is right up front in the Prologue: “To strive against odds on behalf of all of life would be humanity at its most noble.” Sadly, his constant and accurate warnings about how destroying Earth’s biological diversity will eventually also destroy humanities ability to survive are being ignored. This book should be included in a time capsule that should only be opened during the “end days” of human existence. It will serve as the ultimate, I told you so.
If there were a 25-star book rating, I would give Half-Earth a solid twenty-five stars.
In a book that I’m going to call “required reading” for everyone within the sound of my voice, Wilson discusses the premise that a huge variety of life-forms on Earth still remain largely unknown to science and that the species discovered and studied well enough to assess, notably the vertebrae animals and flowering plants, are declining in number at an accelerating rate—due almost entirely to human activity. In response to this premise, Wilson very succinctly states: “The global conservation movement has temporarily mitigated but hardly stopped the on-gong extinction of species. The rate of loss is instead accelerating. If biodiversity is to be returned to the baseline level of extinction that existed before the spread of humanity, and thus saved for future generations, the conservation effort must be raised to a new level. The only solution to the “Sixth Extinction” is to increase the area of inviolable natural reserves to half the surface of the Earth or greater. This expansion is favored by unplanned consequences of ongoing human population growth and movement and evolution of the economy now driven by the digital revolution. But it also requires a fundamental shift in moral reasoning concerning our relation to the living environment.”
The hook-line phrase in the above paragraph is “increase the area of inviolable natural reserves (ie Wilderness designated land reserves) to HALF the surface of the Earth,” hence echoing the book’s title. Half of our planet saved as Wilderness or wildlands seems an awful lot given the shrinking size of the planet due to global markets, global population statistics and the internet and social media, but after reading Wilson’s compilation of facts and figures and prescient logic, one can only agree with his compassionate analysis and fears for the future of all species, including humans. His omniscient observations and study of species extinction hit hard and very close to home as he cites our own Great Smoky Mountains National Park as his primary referent example. “It is instructive to proceed to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the best-studied American reserves, and to reflect briefly on the breakdown of the numbers of known species in each group of organisms. The actual number of recorded species in the Park, especially when all suspected but still unrecorded transient species and microorganisms are added, has been estimated to lie between sixty thousand and eighty thousand,” says Wilson. Very impressive numbers, these are, and those of us living in these western North Carolina mountains are so lucky to be living in such a diverse neighborhood. Yet, we should be humbled by such numbers, or as Wilson goes on to say: “The wildlands (such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park) and the bulk of Earth’s biodiversity protected within them are another world from the one humanity is throwing together pell-mell. What do we receive from them? The stabilization of the global environment they provide and their very existence are the gifts they give to us. We are their stewards, not their owners. These wildlands of the world are not art museums. They are not gardens to be arranged and tended for our delectation. They are not recreation centers or harborers of natural resources or sanatoriums or undeveloped sites of business opportunities.”
Going further abroad, and contrary to national news sources, Wilson cites places such as the Middle East and that region’s problems of biodiversity sustainability. “In the Middle East, it is becoming clear that hatred and instability are not due so much to religious differences and the memories of historical injustice as they are to overpopulation and the severe shortage of arable lands and water.” As the saying goes “the devil is in the details” and Wilson’s layman-friendly book is full of scientific evidence to support his predictions as well as his solutions to this very real and urgent global crisis we all seem to be ignoring, at our own peril.
Wilson is not alone with his convincing data and his dire predictions. Many esteemed scientists, economists, social scientists, artists and politicians world-wide agree with Wilson’s findings and predictions that we are, indeed, in the 12th round of this environmental prize-fight. And the prize? It is the very Earth itself and our continued existence upon it. Or as Wilson concludes in his ending chapter “The Solution”: “The pivotal conclusion to be drawn remains forever the same: by destroying most of the biosphere with archaic short-term methods, we are setting ourselves up for a self-inflicted disaster. Across eons the diversity of species has created ecosystems that provide a maximum level of stability. Climate changes and uncontrollable catastrophes from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and asteroid strikes have thrown nature off balance, but in relatively short geologic periods of time, the damage was repaired—due to the great variety and resilience of the life-forms on Earth. Finally, during the current Earth period, Earth’s shield of biodiversity is being shattered and the pieces are being thrown away. In its place is being inserted only the promise that all can be solved by human ingenuity. Some hope we can take over the controls, monitor the sensors, and push the right buttons to run Earth the way we choose. In response, all the rest of us should be asking: Can the planet be run as a true spaceship by one intelligent species? Surely we would be foolish to take such a large and dangerous gamble. There is nothing our scientists and political leaders can do to replace the still-unimaginable complex of niches and the interactions of the millions of species that fill them. If we try, as we seem determined to do, and then even if we succeed to some extent, remember we won’t be able to go back. The result will be irreversible. We have only one planet and we are allowed only one such experiment. Why make a world-threatening and unnecessary gamble if a safe option is open?”
Wilson’s option: INCREASE THE AREA OF NATURAL WILDERNESS TO ONE HALF THE SURFACE OF THE EARTH!
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Just got this covered in some smelly oily substance, creased and dirty cover and messed up pages.Read more