- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (September 14, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393351645
- ISBN-13: 978-0393351644
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #248,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Human Age: The World Shaped By Us 1st Edition
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“An ode to the planet we’ve created for ourselves… Rarely grim, and the overwhelming spirit is one of relentless optimism.” (Nathanial Rich - New York Times)
“Ackerman has established herself over the last quarter of a century as one of our most adventurous, charismatic, and engrossing public science writers…she has demonstrated a rare versatility, a contagious curiosity, and a gift for painting quick, memorable tableaus drawn from research across a panoply of disciplines. The Human Age displays all of these alluring qualities…The Human Age is a dazzling achievement: immensely readable, lively, polymathic, audacious.” (Rob Nixon - New York Times Book Review)
“Diane Ackerman’s vivid writing, inexhaustible stock of insights, and unquenchable optimism have established her as a national treasure, and as one of our great authors. You’re now about to become addicted to Diane Ackerman.” (Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and The World Until Yesterday)
“In this amazingly illuminating book, Diane Ackerman explains our future with her typically intoxicating blend of scholarship, wisdom, grace and humor.” (Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies)
“The Human Age allows us to consider whether or not we will accept destruction or restoration as our legacy. I cannot imagine a richer text of image and insight, rendered with grace, intelligence and stamina.” (Terry Tempest Williams, author of When Women Were Birds)
“With this stirringly vivid, darkbright manifesto, Diane Ackerman summons us to the wager of sheer possibility: life against death, delight still (if only just barely) trouncing despair.” (Lawrence Weschler, author of Everything that Rises, Pulitzer Prize finalist)
“A book to dip around in―skimming some parts and perusing others with care―as your interest guides you, enjoying Ackerman’s profound sense of mind play as you go.” (Ben Dickinson - Elle)
“A hard look at the impact that humans have had on Earth… thought provoking.” (Kyle Anderson - Entertainment Weekly)
“Fascinating… Ackerman offers a cross-cultural tour of human ingenuity … Her words invite us to feel the hope she feels.” (Barbara J. King - Washington Post)
“Part immersion memoir and part journalism… The Human Age is also many parts poetry.” (Beth Kephart - Chicago Tribune)
“[A] thought-provoking analysis of our connection to the earth… A lens that magnifies and clarifies the fascinating, far-reaching effects humans have had on our planet and ourselves.” (Lee E. Cart - Shelf Awareness)
“Ackerman is a gorgeous writer and perceptive observer. Here she writes with great empathy about the human plight.” (Kate Tuttle - Boston Globe)
“A humdinger of a book… Ackerman is optimistic, even exhilarated, and frequently giddy about the future of humanity.” (Jon Christensen - San Francisco Chronicle)
“Exquisite and startling.” (Tim Flannery - Harper's Magazine)
About the Author
Diane Ackerman has been the finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction in addition to many other awards and recognitions for her work, which include the best-selling The Zookeeper's Wife and A Natural History of the Senses. She lives in Ithaca, New York.
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Top Customer Reviews
That's certainly not a new thesis, of course. Aldo Leopold was writing about the need to live in harmony with nature in a modern, technological, world back in the 1920s, and there have been many since then. What Ackerman brings to the debate is a collection of of stories regarding how humans have used technology to replace, supplant, or in some case, work with nature. She talks about the military use of dolphins, aquaculture, artificial intelligence, evolution, biomass, solar energy, 3-D printing and dozens of other topics. Her range is great, and so is her passion, but in that range sometimes her focus is hard to perceive. What, exactly, Ackerman thinks the role of technology should be, beyond the fact that it shouldn't be harmful, is a bit vague.
Ackerman is a good writer, if a bit florid at times ("we not only bespangle the night, we broadloom the day") but for a science writer she's sometimes remarkably unfamiliar with science, and often speaks with just one person on any given topic. She doesn't seem to do any fact checking, either, otherwise she'd know arrows do not ricochet, and no one has made 3-D printed brass knuckles (although a plastic model has been made). Ackerman also tends to neglect the economics of the policies she or her interviewees propose. The idea that we could all grow much of our fruit and vegetables has a seductive, utopian allure, (Ackerman lives in a rural area, bordered by cornfields, she tells us, which may shape her thinking here) but there's a very good reason that most people stopped growing their own food. It's not terribly productive, either on a personal or a societal level, for a surgeon or an engineer to spend an hour a day tending a vegetable garden rather than doing something they're far more productive at. It's also not necessarily the most efficient use of space in a city in which the infrastructure of power, light, and sewage has to be maintained whether a block is used for housing, industry, or a bean field.
Even so, Ackerman does a good job of presenting a number of stories of technologies, projects, and areas of research that most readers may well be unfamiliar with, and for that reason I think it's worth reading. But it should be read with a critical eye.
Ackerman is a very descriptive writer, using her skills with imagery to her advantage. One can read any one of these chapters and get a good feeling about the topic at hand. We are in the Human Age, and humans have drastically altered the planet. We therefore can also prevent any further damage done by humans if we find cooperative ways across the continents, that help slow down climate change damage.
It's best to read this book one chapter at a time and let her message sink in. Each chapter takes on a different theme. "Asphalt Jungles," for example, deals with the mass migration of humans from rural farms to urban cities and the problems with this. This taxes the infrastructure of the city. How can we make cities more self-reliant on growing food? Cities are hotspots and emit a lot of gasses. She introduces the reader to "reconciliation ecology," an attempt to preserve biodiversity by making our cities and farms more inviting to our natural surroundings, and allowing wildlife back into it.
Some of the other issues Ackerman proposes, such as installing more wind farms in urban settings, may be easier said than done. Dumping treated water back into the natural environment may also not be feasible, but these are all good ideas that simply need more refining.
Ackerman also tackles artificial intelligence and using computers more to help help the planet rather than help industry. Making 3D printing and organ growing more accessible are two such examples. By the end of the book one has been introduced to all kinds of new ideas in which humans make a positive change to the Earth, rather than continue to destroy it. The only issue I have with all her ideas is that there are so many introduced in this book, one wonders which ones to take seriously.
This is a good book for those with a love for the human surroundings. Some ideas may seem far-fetched, but remember that 50 years ago computers were deemed far-fetched. We might as well prepare for transport to Mars now.