Nothing lasts forever, and we are all going to die. Since we've lived with these givens all our lives, it's not really surprising that we enjoy books about the end of the world such as Bill McGuire's A Guide to the End of the World
. Going all together would be so much more fun.
McGuire's account of likely natural catastrophes is a splendidly integrated mechanism, relating rising tides to volcanic eruptions, eruptions to floods, global warming to local cooling--it's amazing we've lasted as long as we have (not sarcasm: fact).
Of course, the boundary between the "natural" and the "man-made" disaster is (and has been, since we arrived on the scene) a grey area. The marked success of one species threatens extinction on all. The super-success of homo sapiens bodes ill, not only for individual species, but for the whole environment.
And this, not surprisingly, is where McGuire's book starts to leave the rails. McGuire writes: "By wiping out the bulk of species that exist today, we are destroying much of the evolution's raw material and severely limiting the planet's ability to generate the species of the future." First, this is a classic piece of misdirection: we have not, as McGuire implies, destroyed the bulk of other species (although we may in the future). More important, its conclusion is plain nonsense. The mass extinction event at the end of the Palaeozoic Era (there have been four others in Earth's history already) wiped out something like 96 per cent of all species--yet life, far from being stunted, blossomed in the gaps, more various than ever before. McGuire would do better to argue that mass extinctions make room for new species to evolve! McGuire's book is a lively entertainment. But his breast-beating is hard to swallow. --Simon Ings
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
`Review from previous edition each chapter does cover the current state of knowledge with impressive thoroughness, often backed by striking facts and figures' New Scientist
`I would heartily recommend Bill McGuire's potted histroy of the Earth and its many mechanicanisms of destruction' www.bluegreenearth.com
`The book is pacy and terrifying' Literary Review
`a convincing, gripping and, at times. terrifying, case' TNT Magazine
`If you like self mutilation, this book will make a humorous light read at bedtime' Front Magazine