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The Future Of Life [Paperback]

Professor Edward O. Wilson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 July 2003

Our world is far richer than previously conceived, yet so ravaged by human activity that half its species could be gone by the end of the present century. These two contrasting themes--unexpected magnificence and underestimated peril--have originated during the past two decades of research. In this timely and important new book, one of our greatest living scientists describes exactly what treasures of the natural world we are about to lose forever and what we can do right now to save them. Destruction of natural habitats, the rampant spread of invasive species, pollution, uncontrolled population growth and overharvesting are the main threats to our natural world. Wilson explains how each of these elements works to undo the web of life that supports us, and why it is in our best interests to stop it.

THE FUTURE OF LIFE is a magisterial accomplishment - both a moving description of the world's astonishing animals and plants and a guidebook for the protection of all its species, including our own.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (3 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349115796
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349115795
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 155,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

As EO Wilson's important The Future of Life reminds us, our own success as a species has been paid for by the wholesale destruction of other forms of life. The more we learn about our own prehistory, the more we realise that this has been going on for a very long time. On the other hand, the more we understand about the environment, the more we realise that the economic and industrial developments of the last couple of hundred years have given this age-old problem a new and terribly urgent spin.

The facts are incontrovertible. But how do we interpret them? Something exciting is happening. The old head-to-head between the economists and the environmentalists is giving way to a more sophisticated, constructive debate. Arguably, that debate entered the public realm with statistician Bjorn Lomborg's brilliantly argued and controversial The Skeptical Environmentalist, which presented hard data on the state of the environment. Things are bad, Lomborg argued, but they are not insoluble.

EO Wilson's moving and poetic book is, at its core, just as hard-headed. While adopting a much more eco-friendly tone than Lomborg, Wilson is guardedly optimistic, as he describes the ethical, political and economic thinking that may yet save the planet while providing for a just and equitable future for the world's teeming poor. The old head-to-head is dead. The Future of Life is a moving, impassioned and constructive future bible of the new environmentalism. --Simon Ings --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


There's a new Darwin. His name is Edward O. Wilson (Tom Wolfe.)

A giant among pygmies (Bryan Appleyard, INDEPENDENT)

One of the clearest and most dedicated popularizers of science since T.H.Huxley (TIME.)

A grippingly detailed account (INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is the way forward 13 Jun 2002
In this compelling book Edward O. Wilson repeats some of the entreaties to mankind that he makes in "The Diversity of Life".
They are, however, entreaties that have to be made if the damage that the human race is doing to the planet is to be stemmed. This book avoids cliche because the problems that Wilson highlights remain as relevant as ever and the solutions that he suggests bring home the simplicity of an environmental solution and the complexities of an economic one. It is the comparison and coalition of economic and environmental aims that makes this book a triumph and, to echo the former reviewer, a book that must be read by everyone.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Your future, your life 3 Aug 2005
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
Edward Wilson is America's, if not the world's, leading naturalist. Years of field work are applied in The Future of Life in a global tour of the world's natural resources. How are they used? What has been lost? What remains and is it sustainable with present rates of use? With broad vision, Wilson stresses our need to understand fully the biodiversity of our planet. Most importantly, that knowledge must include a realistic view of human impact on those resources. While many works of this genre sound tocsins of despair with little to offer in countering the threat of the "outbreak" of humanity on our planet, Wilson proposes a variety of realistic scenarios that may save our world and our own species. Survival will be obtained from a sound knowledge base, and the foundation for that insight starts here.
Wilson begins with an open letter to the patron saint of environment defenders, Henry David Thoreau. He offers a comparative view of today's Walden Pond with that of Thoreau's day. Wilson will use such comparisons for the remainder of the book. The issue is clear: humanity has done grave damage to its home over the millennia. The growth of human population, but more importantly, the usurpation of the biosphere for limited human purposes, threatens a world losing its ability to cope with the intrusion. Can this planet, with human help, be restored to biodiversity levels that will ensure its ongoing capacity to provide for us?
Wilson's writing skills readily match his talents as a researcher. Presenting sweeping ideas with an economy of words, he avoids vague assertions or the need for the reader to fill in information. With each stop of our global voyage in his company, he provides detailed information describing examples of human "erasure of entire ecosystems.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book!!! 25 April 2002
This book is fantastic. It sets out clearly the damage the human race has done in the past and explains the problems all species including our own will face in the future. However this book is not all doom and gloom and the author uses arguments from all spectrums to make a case for conservation without brow beating or blinding the reader with scientific terms. This is easily the best and most balanced book I have read on the subject.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars WRONG TITLE, OVERFOCUSED, TOO OPTIMISTIC 22 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having learned a lot from other books by the author, I expected much from this one with its promising title. All the greater was my disappointment. This is a good mainstream discussion of the importance of biodiversity. But it suffers from three major faults.
The first is a misleading title. The book does not deal with the future of "life" because the future of humanity is not discussed. This is a great pity. Humanity is moving through a phase-jump, acquiring the unprecedented ability to terminate its existence, to change its core attributes, and perhaps to clone itself and also to create life. These "gifts" of science and technology are fateful, also for human action on endangered species. Therefore the problem with the book is not only a misleading title, but missing a variable critical for its actual concern.
This leads the second error, namely quite some tunnel vision. Not only is the future of humanity ignored, but the future of the climate is not discussed despite its profound significance for the biosphere, directly and indirectly. If temperatures and sea levels rise they impact on many species and their habitats, including "hot spots" of species diversity. And climate changes will constitute heavy stressor on humanity which will unavoidable receive priority over other biosphere concerns.
The third fundamental mistake is the mood of optimism, especially pronounced in the last chapter. All the describe species preserving activities, however important, are inadequate, determined government action being essential as clearly recognized by the author. But such action depends on politics.
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