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The End of Nature [Hardcover]

Bill McKibben
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Reissued on the tenth anniversary of its publication, this classic work on our environmental crisis features a new introduction by the author, reviewing both the progress and ground lost in the fight to save the earth.

This impassioned plea for radical and life-renewing change is today still considered a groundbreaking work in environmental studies. McKibben's argument that the survival of the globe is dependent on a fundamental, philosophical shift in the way we relate to nature is more relevant than ever. McKibben writes of our earth's environmental cataclysm, addressing such core issues as the greenhouse effect, acid rain, and the depletion of the ozone layer. His new introduction addresses some of the latest environmental issues that have risen during the 1990s. The book also includes an invaluable new appendix of facts and figures that surveys the progress of the environmental movement.

More than simply a handbook for survival or a doomsday catalog of scientific prediction, this classic, soulful lament on Nature is required reading for nature enthusiasts, activists, and concerned citizens alike.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 226 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Inc (T); 1 edition (1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394576012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394576015
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 15.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,859,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A kind of song for the wild, a lament for its loss, and a plea for its restoration" -- New York Review of Books

"An environmental blockbuster ... an extraordinary book," -- Daily Telegraph

"by our actions nature has been irredeemably altered. It is hard to think of anything more chilling." -- Ruth Rendal --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Bill McKibben is the author of THE AGE OF MISSING INFORMATION and ENOUGH: GENETIC ENGINEERING AND THE END OF HUMAN NATURE, and writes regularly for THE NEW YORKER. He is a regular contributor to THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, THE NEW YORK TIMES and ROLLING STONE. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting and Informative Read 7 July 2010
I will admit that I am not in any way a Climate Change Sceptic. I bought into the concept as a child when CFC gasses were first correctly banned from products. I have always believed that we needed to change our way to preserve the earth for future generations. I had never considered, however, that we may have already moved past a point where we can do that, that all we've done already has changed the world irrevocably and the life I have become accustomed to is mostly supported by practices that are detrimental to the Earth's well being.

And all of that sounds very negative but the book doesn't read like a haranguing lecture at all. It actually left me feeling hopeful and eager to recommend this read to others.

Whether you're a sceptic or a fully fledged card holding believer this is something you should read.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable reflection on global economics 13 Sep 2009
The book presents a rigorous analysis of the relationship between human development and the ecology and explains in clear unequivocal language, why we must choose a different path.
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2 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Gloom and doom 20 May 2012
This book has no redeeming merits whatsoever. It is a diatribe against human progress from the lofty height of a US environmentalist, secure in his own affluence and wealth, but hateful of anyone who dissents from his creed. So he is opposed to DDT, despite the fact that it helped clear malaria from many countries of the world (including his own) and especially now, to GM technology, which holds the hope of dragging millions of people from starvation and poverty. McKibben sees carbon dioxide as an evil gas helping to throttle the planet and cause runaway global warming, but despite the dire predictions of the IPCC, the world remains intact and, indeed, thriving. Coal, oil and gas are helping two nations in particular to bring prosperity to their peoples, through electricity generation. Does he really resent their march out of poverty? And where is the "end to nature"? The plant and animal kingdoms are thriving, and attempts by Greenpeace to show the opposite are wrong. Such charities point to the apparent demise of the Polar Bear, but the species is actually growing as far as one can tell The Inuit are the best witnesses to this fact). Environmentalists like McKibben should descend from the lofty pedestals and discuss their problems with ordinary men and women, who see no such disaster awaiting them. Their cause is even now being deserted by their high priests, such as James Lovelock of Gaia fame, who now admits "he was wrong" about global warming (the earth is currently in a cooling phase). Avoid this book for its fanaticism.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  36 reviews
89 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific Explanantion Of Forces Leading to Global Warming! 1 Mar 2001
By Barron Laycock - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Anyone familiar with the author's other books on man and his fateful connection to the natural environment owe it to themselves to read this seminal offering first published over a decade ago when the phenomenon of global warming was a hotly argued and angrily debated issue. The publication of this new 10th anniversary edition arrives in a world in which most of the author's frightful prognostications regarding the negative consequences of the hotly-debated "Greenhouse Effect" issue of a decade ago have been proven to be accurate and true. If anything, McKibben's warnings were, in retrospect, conservative. For example, five of the ten warmest years on record have been in the last decade. Thus, "The End Of Nature " must be regarded as an intriguing book that comprehensively covers a critically important phenomenon; the massive intrusion of man, technology, and civilization into the natural order of the world's ecosystems to the point that we have ripped them asunder. While the Bushes and Gores fiddle away in their Washington offices, the forces of man are still engaged in such a maddening and suicidal plundering of the world's biological treasure house.
The author's basic thesis, now well validated by over a decade of dramatically documented data regarding the globe's climate changes, is that though our massive intrusion into the delicate balance of gases, fluids, and temperature gradients so important in determining the world's weather patterns, we have altered and fragmented the earth's natural balance in an order of magnitude so large and so overwhelming that it has now permanently negated nature's capacity to operate autonomously, independently, and naturally. We have in essence replaced natural forces with our own efforts, and have now become the single most important and decisive element in climatic calculus that determines the weather.
As a result, it is no longer possible to pretend that nature is something that just happens out there, and that we are merely subject to its forces and its whims. Instead, the author argues, it is human actions and human interference that now fatefully orients and influences the forces determining the weather. Yet, we live in a culture so embedded in patterns of denial about the effects of scientific and technological intrusion into the natural world that we seem to now regard the natural wilderness as mere grist for amusement parks. We seem so disconnected to nature or to its delicate balancing acts that we have no regard for the consequence of our continuing intrusions into its innermost workings. We seem to have forgotten our dependence on the elements of the natural world in order to survive, and consequently do not comprehend the disastrous consequences our massively ignorance, interference, and corruption of the natural world around us will likely bring.
Instead, we worry about our stocks and mutual funds, ignoring the facts that the world's potable water is disappearing as the world's population increases geometrically. We worry about our property values and our next promotions, never recognizing the degree to which our materialistic culture and our over-consumptive way of life is condemning us and the rest of the world to oblivion. So we fiddle as Rome burns. In any event, this is a terrific book, one that anyone interested in where we stand and where we are heading both culturally and globally needs to read. This, along with other books such as Lew Ayre's "God's Last Offer" and David Suzuki's "The Sacred Balance", can give the interested reader a better idea of what kinds of possibilities await us in the new millennium. Enjoy!
43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Please don't read this if you are clinically depressed. 12 Aug 2000
By "echochuck" - Published on Amazon.com
Warning. If you truly believe that ignorance is bliss, stop now and do not buy this book. If however, you care at all about the planet, and/or you care for your children and the world they will inherit, you must read this book. This is the most frightening and depressing book I have ever read and in some ways I wish I had never read it. I spent the week after reading it in a deep funk and the camping trip I took the next weekend was tainted by the my new awareness of the wilderness that we have as a civilization already destroyed. The cause of enviromentalism has never seemed so desperate and hopeless to me, but now that McKibben has opened my eyes to the steep slope towards oblivion that we are on , it seems criminal not to try to stop our fall, at least for my childrens sakes. This book should be required reading for all candidates for public office and high school graduation. In the decade since its publication much of the environmental degradation predicted has already occured, some like the melting of the Antartic ice sheet and accelerating destruction of the ozone layer at the fastest predicted rate. I would be very interested to read an update detailing exactly how far this has deteriorated in the last decade. Something must be done! But what? We are living blissfully in ignorance while the very oceans, the atmosphere that protects us and the earth that sustains us are being destroyed at a rate that probably even with total cooperative world effort and prioritization, we could not stop.We're talking about mere decades here! But in the present political and social climate in the U.S.,can anyone imagine our environment becoming the national priority? So, I'm left with, What can I do. I guess that other than urging this book on all my friends,( one of whom a conservative who after borrowing it for the weekend chastised me, " Thanks for ruining my weekend and my trip to Mt. Rainier!"), this review is a meager start for me. Maybe a start for you is to READ THIS BOOK! If not, our civilizations epitaph, written on a scorched and sterile Venusion planet may read, "They had a last desperate chance, but they decided to stick their head in the sand."
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eloquent, Beautiful, Shattering 19 May 2000
By David G. Albrecht - Published on Amazon.com
If I could recommend only one book to family, friends and neighbors about the gathering environmental darkness, this would without question be it. The End of Nature, now about ten years old, was generally dismissed by the intelligensia, (notably Christopher Lasch of Harper's), who described it as a "tear-stained" work of "rural piety", not incidentally missing the point entirely. This is not a garden-variety work of environmental apocalypticism, though McKibben does allow that the odds in favor of just such an ecological and social collapse are pretty good. The "successful" alternative future he describes is equally, if not more horrible.
If, by dint of technology and sheer ingenuity, we manage to avoid the consequences of the ongoing overshoot, what then? Imagine, if you can, a world in which we, our pets (and pests) and a carefully selected handful of bioengineered plants and animals live on, and in which almost everything else dies. Without wilderness, without even a semblance of connection to our origins, we probably could continue some form of human civilization. The question, however, is why, as individuals, we would want to.
The groundwork for this sort of dessicated world is already well-laid, given our very American demands for paved roads and air conditioning everywhere we go, along with our ceaseless demands for more stuff - and make that bigger and cheaper, too. McKibben does harbor some optimism that we can choose to take a more difficult path. I only wish I could share that optimism. Read and remember this important book!
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking, essential reading 23 Mar 2001
By SAM GREENBLATT - Published on Amazon.com
The reissuing of Bill McKibben's groundbreaking book on global warming is pause for thought. Wouldn't it be nice if we could point back 10 years and identify this book as representative of a turning point in human evolution - one where we finally came to terms with our manipulation of natural processes? It is clear that we continue to plunder our environment with increasing improvidence, and that global warming has continued unabated. So hard is it to reach consensus on how to tackle the issue, that at the next Earth Summit (Johannesburg 2002) it has been proposed that global warming be left off the agenda entirely, lest the discussion deteriorate as it did in Rio.
At the same time this book sounded the death knell for what is sometimes called "hard" ecology: that nature should be left alone entirely and that the fight should be to reinstate it in its most pristine form. Sadly, this book forcefully made the point that this is now impossible, because the very fundamentals of nature have been affected by our interventions. The only cause for optimism (and I think this is McKibben's point) is to support conservation on these new terms, using a softer ecological approach. Unfortunately, this theoretical regrouping is unlikely to prove fruitful (witness George W. Bush's reneging on his CO2 emissions campaign promises).
Depressing, salutary and a testimony to our embarrassing myopia. Anyone with any optimism left after this might decide to expend it on the highly recommendable "Song of the Dodo" by David Quammen.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Book 28 July 2000
By <aspergerian@yahoo.com> - Published on Amazon.com
Bill McKibbon's The End of Nature was first published in 1989. Had I read the book then, my reaction would have been diluted. Instead, after finishing the book in July of 2000, I am stunned by the accuracy of his analysis -- especially regarding the inescapable ramifications of human-induced environmental changes and the path being followed by designers and marketers of genetic engineering. Books that complement Bill's well-expressed thesis include Mander & Goldsmith's "The Case Against the Global Economy" and Winona Laduke's "All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life" and Jeremy Rifkin's "Entropy".
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