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The God Species: Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans Hardcover – 10 Dec 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic Society (10 Dec 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 142620891X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1426208911
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.5 x 23.6 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 619,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"If there is one reason to read Mark Lynas​' book The God Species, it's because of his exposition of the 'planetary boundaries' concept." -"Scientific American"
"I believe it would behoove anyone who has an opinion about the future of our planet to read The God Species." -"Forbes "
"Lynas's book is at the top of my must-read pile." -Dot Earth blog, Andrew Revkin, "New York Times"
"An accurate portrayal of the state of the planet and a call to action using all means possible before boundaries are crossed with irreversible results." -"Kirkus "
"Readers who were previously unaware of the scope of humanity's effects on the world--on its climate, its biogeochemical cycles, the chemistry of its oceans, the color of its sky, the flow of its rivers, the number of its species and more--may find themselves shocked by its relentless exposition. Meanwhile many readers who are already alarmed by the state of the environment will find themselves shocked by what Mr. Lynas wants to do about it...his views are certainly not yet common currency, and...that makes his position both more interesting and more compelling." -"The Economist"
"For all the angst this book may cause his Green allies, there can be no doubting his seriousness about climate change...This is a clear-eyed, hard-headed assessment of the ecological challenges facing us - and all the more bracing for it...vigorously provocative" -"London Evening Standard"
"The power of Lynas's voice comes not just from his famously deep research... but also his authority as a campaigner." "--Sunday Times of London "
"The most attention-grabbing passages in the book come in Lynas's denunciations of the green movement." -"The Guardian"
"Lynas is to be commended for producing a work that challenges so many green movement taboos and for recognising the importance of hard science - such as nuclear power and genetic engineering - and sound economics as potential saviours of

About the Author

Mark Lynas has worked for nearly a decade as a specialist on climate change, and is author of three books on the subject: High Tide: News from a Warming World (2004), Carbon Calculator (2007), and Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet (2007). Lynas writes a fortnightly column for the New Statesman magazine, and is a regular contributor to the Guardian. He is also a Visiting Research Associate at Oxford University's School of Geography and the Environment.

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Amazon.com: 32 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
An argument against waiting for the perfect 18 Oct 2011
By Malvin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The God Species" by Mark Lynas suggests that humanity, as the earth's dominant species, must face up to its environmental responsibilities in a timely, pragmatic and life-affirming manner. As a veteran environmental activist and consultant to the low-lying Republic of Maldives (an island nation that is severely threatened by climate change and rising sea levels), Mr. Lynas believes that urgent solutions to the environmental crisis must not be held captive to ideology or politics. In this passionate and intelligent book, the author presents a positive and politically-centrist vision of how humanity can and must use its ingenuity to save the planet.

Mr. Lynas' thesis holds that the Anthropocene era has arrived -- whether religious fundamentalists on the right or deep green advocates on the left care to admit it, or not. As Mr. Lynas discusses the nine environmental tipping points of biodiversity, climate change, nitrogen, land use, freshwater, toxics, aerosols, ocean acidification, and ozone, we come to understand that one way or another, humanity's actions (and inactions) matter a great deal. For example, Mr. Lynas helps us see that the decision to not build a nuclear power plant must be weighed against the cost of burning coal and accumulating more excess CO2 in the atmosphere. Mr. Lynas believes quite sensibly that conservatives must recognize that the indefinite and unlimited use of fossil fuels is not possible for the planet; while progressives must recognize the usefulness and (in his view) very limited downside risk of deploying nuclear power on a wide scale.

When not discussing the science around environmental issues, Mr. Lynas is keen to break through the ideological impasse that he feels has kept viable solutions off the table as time grows short. Reminding us that chemical fertilizers helped humanity avert the very real possibility of mass hunger a century ago, Mr. Lynas thinks we should suspend at least some of our concerns about genetic engineering and apply our best scientists to the task of producing a new generation of food crops that might be able to produce their own nitrogen. Similarly, while we wait for solar, wind and other renewable energy souces to come to market, we should not rule out geoengineering solutions to help us mitigate the effects of global warming. While there is probably more here to upset commited environmentalists than anyone else, one is inclined to agree with the author that waiting for the perfect while the earth's life support systems approach dangerous tipping points might well be asking for too much.

Nonetheless, there is ample room to quibble with Mr. Lynas. For example, Mr. Lynas' contention that modern organic farming methods are insufficient to feed the U.K. (if not the world) is disproven in Simon Fairlie's Meat: A Benign Extravagance. Mr. Lynas seems far too keen to trust the future of vital ecosystems such as tropical rainforests to the financial markets (see Breakfast Of Biodiversity: The Political Ecology of Rain Forest Destruction for a far superior analyis including practical solutions). Nor is it obvious that Mr. Lynas' exotic geoengineering schemes are really all that necessary when the low-tech solution of biochar may be available (see The Biochar Debate: Charcoal's Potential to Reverse Climate Change and Build Soil Fertility). However, Mr. Lynas can be forgiven on account of his courage to open up the debate; and most importantly, for giving us hope that people might still be able to come together to solve our most pressing environmental problems.

I highly recommend this informative, pragmatic and inspiring book to everyone.
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Lynas exhibits an odd mixture of realism and denial 29 Sep 2011
By Autonomeus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Mark Lynas is a well-informed journalist on the issue of climate change. There is much of value in his latest book, including the uncompromising assertion that we (that is we, the human species) need to stop using carbon-rich fossil fuels COMPLETELY as rapidly as possible.

So far so good. We must phase out the production of CO2 by burning fossil fuels in order to stop runaway global warming and catastrophic climate change. I disagree with Lynas's vehement promotion of nuclear power as a source of electricity. But the deeper problem is that Lynas is in denial about the possibility of continuing economic growth.

Herman Daly and other ecological economists argue that growth as material throughput simply cannot continue -- we must move to a steady-state economy in order to stabilize the relationship between humans and the ecosystem. Qualitative growth can continue, but not quantitative growth. Infinite growth is simply impossible in a finite ecosystem.

Lynas seems to think that this is a choice. He simply fails to understand that mainstream economics contradicts physics and biology. Endless growth is not just a bad choice, it is an impossibility. This is the conclusion of one of the more important books of our time, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update (see my review).

See anything by Daly, including his classic Steady-State Economics, on the economics, and Thomas Homer-Dixon's The Upside of Down on making the best of social breakdown, which seems increasingly likely with every passing year that radical structural changes are avoided.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The best Christmas gift for a republican father-in-law 16 Nov 2011
By Jodie - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
For years I have felt the weight of the fact that people will not change their habits and that we cannot function as modern societies without growth - so how do we prevent the calamities that have befallen every other age once they move past the 350ppm planetary boundary scientists acknowledge is the crucial game changer?

Lynas's argument for nuclear has tipped my lifelong opposition to the energy source and has at the same time given me a way to see a future where we can have growth and a stable climate. Simply put, I never thought that would happen.

And as he says, evidence about the reality of global warming is far more overwhelming today than it was about the threat to the ozone layer in the 1980's, when the USA took political leadership.

I am yet to be persuaded on his GM argument.
But on nuclear and the need for clean energy that can transform emissions throughout our world, I say, 'bring it on'.

A fantastic gift for all republicans.
17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
A Book No One Will Like 4 Oct 2011
By R. Schwenk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Review of The God Species

Mark Lynas has succeeded in writing a book that no one will like. Republicans will reject it because he acknowledges climate change and favors a world-wide regulatory regime. Progressives will reject it because he pushes nuclear power, favors GDP and population growth, and encourages privatization of water supplies. Everyone else will be turned off by the notion that humans can play God with the planet.

Lynas begins with the work of the Planetary Boundaries Expert Group and their 2009 paper (see [...]) identifying nine planetary boundaries within which humanity should be able to operate safely. The group includes NASA's James Hansen, so it is no surprise that one of the boundaries is 350 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere, a limit that we have already crossed. Other boundaries include ocean acidification, stratospheric ozone, and global freshwater use. Crossing any of these boundaries is likely to trigger worldwide environmental changes with calamitous consequences for humanity.

The title of the book reveals its key thesis: humans have no choice but to play God by managing the planetary environment. Merely limiting human effects on the environment will not suffice: we are too numerous, our energy and food needs are too great, and ecosystems are already in deep trouble. This conclusion is unassailable, but the book has a few problems.

Any attempt to grapple with the future of the planet devolves into an argument about which potential changes are realistic and which are pipe dreams. Lynas makes clear that he considers limits on population growth, GDP growth, and energy usage utterly unrealistic. On the other hand, he believes that per capita GDP can grow for everyone on the planet and that the wealth will distribute itself evenly (see Steady-State Economics: Second Edition With New Essays). He likes urbanization, believing that it will lead to efficiencies and slower population growth. He seems blithely unaware of the immiseration of the many for the benefit of the few, which seems to be the undeniable trend at work in the world economy (see Planet of Slums). Nor does he seem aware that the growing instability in global capitalism is likely to produce a lot more misery in the near future. It is also somewhat appalling that he can promote the privatization of water after the fiasco in Bolivia (see Even the Rain).

Lynas' most astounding venture into wishful thinking is his leap onto the nuclear bandwagon. He considers those who oppose nuclear power to be as misguided as global warming deniers. Considering the behavior of both governments and corporations with respect to safety, transparency, and nuclear proliferation, the thought of building enough nuclear power stations to replace all coal-fired plants fills me with dread. Lynas seems to place a lot of confidence in regulation, but he seems not to have heard of regulatory capture: the way regulators come to serve industry rather than the public good. Nor does he consider what kind of power plant is more likely to be targeted by terrorists.

Lynas never lets more than a few pages go by without criticizing the environmental movement: for hypocrisy, for being unrealistic, for alienating conservatives, for advocating a dreary future. He castigates pessimists without acknowledging that pessimists have made environmental science possible. But I find his optimism both unrealistic and alienating. When Fox News Channel embraces the notion of planetary boundaries, then I'll allow myself some optimism.
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
We Have the Technology 24 Sep 2011
By Barbara - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The title of this book is bound to infuriate the very religious among us, those who believe that a God created everything; that He created mankind to worship him, and that there "some things we are not meant to know." That we musn't "play God." (And as far as that goes, we musn't. Play around with chicken hearts in a Petrie dish and next thing you know you've got a gigantic chicken heart devouring the planet. (An episode of Lights Out, for those of you who don't know their radio horror history). Or we'll have clone farms where people will store many copies of themselves just in case they need the occasional kidney or eye somewhere down the line...and who cares what happens to these clones once these parts are removed? (Jefferson 55).

But that's biotechnology. In The God Species, author Mark Lynas is well aware that we as humans, in this Anthropocene Age (Age of Humans) aren't doing nearly as good a job of protecting our planet - our only home - as we should be able to do considering the fact that we are an intelligent species. Unlike animals, we know what will happen if we do Action A. It will lead to Action B. It may then lead to Action C or D, and we as humans have the intelligence to forsee those actions! The fact that a lot of people don't bother to think into the future is a literal crime.

(I'm thinking of those fishermen on islands that were once tropical paradise. Rather than fish the hard way, they'll drop dynamite or poor bleach into coral reefs to drive out the fish. Instant easy harvest. But then the reef dies and the rest of the fish go away, and there goes the fisherman's livelihood. All because they wanted to take the easy way to begin with.)

Mark Lynas is an environmentalist, a Green, but as he says, "Central to the standard Green creed is the ida that playing God is dangerous. Hence the reflexive opposition to new technologies from splitting the animal to cloning cattle. My thesis is the reverse: playing God (in the sense of being intelligent designers) at a planetary level is essential if creation is not to be irreparably damaged or even destroyed by humans unwittingly deploying our newfound powers in disastrous ways."

Lynas' book is divided into 9 "Boundaries" (or topics): Biodiversity, Climate Change, Nitrogen, Land Use, Freshwater, Toxics, Aerosols, Ocean Acidification and the Ozone Layer. For each topic he gives its history - the history of what mankind has done and is doing to it, and how it can be engineered for the better. He shares information on how governments and businesses in various countries are working on their own Green programs to save drinking water, limit pollution, but explains that there's so much more to do, especially in developing countries where ability to implement such green ideas is limited.

His final chapter is simply titled "Managing the Planet" in which he summarizes his discussion of each Planetary Boundary.

Lynas' book is described as controversial. That's because, although he is a Green, he goes against the Green theory that constraints must be placed on humans as to what we can do in our own homes, in our own towns and cities, in our own countries. According to Lynas (and the scientists who make up the Planetary Boundaries Expert Group) "as long as the thresholds are not crossed, humanity has the freedom to pursue long-term social and economic development. Our global civilization can continue to flourish indefinitely within the "safe operating space" provided by the planetary boundaries."

Managing our planet - our only home - can be divided roughly into two camps. Those who think that God created this vast planet and made it too big to fail, regardless of what man can throw at it, and those who think that regardless of how the Earth was created, 4 billion people can destroy it pretty easily - or if not destroy it at least remove all the vibrancy and life from it.

Lynas is of the belief that mankind can, and is, destroying our planet, but that we can also save it. We have the technology.

Question is, will we utilize it?
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