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The Future of Life [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Edward O. Wilson
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 8 2002
From one of the world’s most influential scientists (and two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning author) comes his most timely and important book yet: an impassioned call for quick and decisive action to save Earth’s biological heritage, and a plan to achieve that rescue.

Today we understand that our world is infinitely richer than was ever previously guessed. Yet it is so ravaged by human activity that half its species could be gone by the end of the present century. These two contrasting truths—unexpected magnificence and underestimated peril—have become compellingly clear during the past two decades of research on biological diversity.

In this dazzlingly intelligent and ultimately hopeful book, Wilson describes what treasures of the natural world we are about to lose forever—in many cases animals, insects, and plants we have only just discovered, and whose potential to nourish us, protect us, and cure our illnesses is immeasurable—and what we can do to save them. In the process, he explores the ethical and religious bases of the conservation movement and deflates the myth that environmental policy is antithetical to economic growth by illustrating how new methods of conservation can ensure long-term economic well-being.

The Future of Life is a magisterial accomplishment: both a moving description of our biosphere and a guidebook for the protection of all its species, including humankind.

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From Amazon

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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The totality of life, known as the biosphere to scientists and creation to theologians, is a membrane of organisms wrapped around Earth so thin it cannot be seen edgewise from a space shuttle, yet so internally complex that most species composing it remain undiscovered. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Future of Life May 25 2004
I really enjoy reading the book ¡§The Future of Life¡ by the Biologist Edward O. Wilson. It is a rich and vivid book where the writer uses lots of brilliant and detailed description about the animals and other habitats. The sufficient amount information provides me a great and accurate picture of how the wild lives out there truly live.
This book depicts how Agriculture, one of the vital industries, endangers the remaining wild species and the nature environment. The world's food supply is hung by a slender thread of biodiversity. Ninety percent of the food supply is actually provided by slightly more than a hundred plant species out of a quarter-million known to exist. Of these hundred species, twenty species carry most of the load, of which only the main three--Wheat, maize, and rice---stand between humanity and starvation. Furthermore, most of the premier twenty are those that happened to be present in the agricultural region.
In a more general sense, these important species are the major potential donors of genes that genetic engineering utilize to improve the crop performance. With the insertion of the right snippets of DNA, new strains can be created that are variously cold-hardy, pest-proofed, perennial, fast growing, highly nutritious, multipurpose, water-conservative, and more easily sowed and harvested. And compared with traditional breeding techniques, genetic engineering is all but instantaneous.
In sum, Genetic Engineering have drastically changed our old ways of growing crops and thus, it threatens the future existence of the other species since it have significantly decreased the diversity of the nature wild lives.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Situation desperate but not completely hopeless May 23 2004
By L. Feld
The Future Of Life is a great book and a perfect antidote to: a) unwarranted optimism about the state of the environment, which by almost any measure appears desperate; b) unwarranted pessimism or fatalism regarding man's ability to DO something about this situation; and c) the reams of misinformation, uninformed opinion, and ridiculously wild-eyed optimism on environmental matters that exists out there (i.e., "The Skeptical Environmentalist").
Unlike The Skeptical Environmentalist, which is written by a statistician, The Future Of Life is written by one of the world's greatest living scientists, Edward O. Wilson, author of 20 books (including Sociobiology, and Consilience), winner of two Pulitzer prizes plus dozens of science prizes, and discoverer of hundreds of new species. Dr. Wilson is often called, for good reason, "the father of biodiversity." Wilson is also one of the rare breed of scientists, like Stephen J. Gould, Carl Sagan, and Stephen Hawking, who can actually communicate their thoughts and findings to the general public. This is particularly important when it comes to Wilson's area of expertise, given that the environment is something which affects all of us and which all of us can play a part in protecting (or destroying).
Wilson's main theme can be summed up as "situation desperate, but not hopeless." Why desperate? Because humans--all 6 billion of them--are the most destructive force ever unleashed on Earth. According to Wilson, humanity's "bacterial" rate of growth during the 20th century, its short-sightedness, wasteful consumption patterns, general greed and rapaciousness, ignorance, and technological power have resulted in a mass extinction: "species of plants and animals...
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Don Quixote of biodiversity Feb. 11 2004
By Cuvtixo
Although its quite clearly a thoughtful analysis, I could not see Wilson's recommendations as realistic. Wilson catalogs some of the more successful environmental programs, but it seems like the effort to preserve biodiversity is a desperate struggle. It seems somewhat ironic that the world's most distinguished scholar of insect societies would not have more insight on the nature of human societies. Not for those with a pessimistic bent, because Wilson gives plenty of reasons to despair for the natural environment.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Future of Life Book Review Feb. 10 2004
By A Customer
The title The Future of Life is a good book because it makes predictions of the future based on what is happening now. He describes the Earth as one big organism that has to coperate with all the cordinating ecosystems to survive. Humans have created the "bottleneck theory" where we havecontinually destroyed ecosystems and extinguished species. We as humans are using up all the natural resourses and in the long run, we are hurting ourselves. E.O. wilson uses the book as a "call to action" for humans to change their wars before it is too late and our planet earth is destroyed forever.
Overall, it was a pretty good book. Wilson uses good examples in outlining how we can help improve Earth. He was a tad too pessimistis though. He blamed everything on humans. THere were alot of facts that mad it boring and it got a little redundant towards the end of the novel. The Future of life was an interesting read. There was a lot of interesting information in it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A whirlwind tour of biodiversity preservation Feb. 1 2004
Great work ! In this book, E.O.Wilson takes us through a whirlwind tour of what/why/how of biodiversity preservation -- "what is biodiversity and how we humans are contributing to it's loss" , "why we should preserve biodiversity" and "how we should do it". For the "why" aspect, the author discusses both the "utility" of biodiversity to humans (ecosystem services and bioprospecting etc) and also the ethical reasons. Finally some very practical solutions are presented and he goes on to describe how they are being implemented by NGO's etc. Iam not a trained biologist/ecologist but still i found the book easily readable. Highly recommended !
"In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but by what we refuse to destroy" -- John C. Sawhill
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Well read, not so well produced
The reader, Ed Begley, Jr., reads this book clearly and with good phrasing. The abridging is not heavy.
Only one complaint: 6 CDs with NO TRACK INDEX! Read more
Published on April 11 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars For biologist
Unfortunately this book was a little over my head. The book started off with a good point on extinction but then started to get into biological terms that made me lose my... Read more
Published on Jan. 15 2004 by M. Karakus
3.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting even for a independent w/ Republican ideals
I found this book fascinating and scary. I also got bogged down in some of the minutia(sp?) of the biology. Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2004 by Tim Cannata
4.0 out of 5 stars What's happening to our world?
There are many species in the world. There are all different types of species, living in all different types of habitats. But how long will they be around? Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars necessary
Whether we like informational books or not, sometimes we need to read them so we're aware of what's going on in the world. Read more
Published on Dec 12 2003 by Kent
5.0 out of 5 stars A top biologist's prognosis of the future of humanity
I have more often than not been disappointed by books which deal with the topic(s) of an economically, biologically, and socially sustainable future. Read more
Published on Sept. 6 2003 by Govindan Nair
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Sermon for the Choir
No question, you won't read this book unless you already are half or three-quarters into Wilson's camp. Read more
Published on Aug. 12 2003 by James R. Mccall
5.0 out of 5 stars most comprehensive analysis of environment
In my opinion, Wilson's book makes the most compelling and clearly-stated argument for biological conservation ever written. His writing is both eloquent and biting. Read more
Published on June 22 2003 by Emily
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