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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You'll want to be a biologist!, 26 Jan 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: The Diversity Of Life (Hardcover)
Wilson writes a great overview of biodiversity--how it is created, why it is crucial to human survival, and what we must do to preserve it. Enjoy accessible and well-documented writing that takes you from California to Madagascar, from the present to the beginnings of life as known from the fossil record. Along the way you'll learn many of the crucial ecological and evolutionary concepts (such as natural selection, community ecology, biogeography, and more) necessary for understanding what biodiversity is and how it is maintained. And finally, in the last part of the book, learn about philosophies and practices that will enable each of us to preserve the amazing diversity of life that surrounds us. You'll want to be a biologist by the time you finish the book!
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A calm and balanced view of biodiversity and extinction, 19 April 2004
By 
Sally-Anne "mynameissally" (Leicestershire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Diversity of Life (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
If you watch nature programmes, Edward O Wilson is one of those intrepid biologists you see fairly frequently, looking serious and concerned, dressed for the jungle and being interviewed about deforestation, biodiversity, ecology and so on. He's one of my favourite "talking heads", along with the likes of David Attenborough. This is the first time I've read one of his books and I found it fascinating. His writing style is not as easy and fluent as some other writers I could mention. The best plain English writer in this general area (well, close enough: evolutionary biology, which is just as potentially technical and complicated) is Richard Dawkins, in my opinion. But Mr Wilson's style gets easier after a couple of chapters as you settle into his flow.
There's a comprehensive Foreword and, at the end there are Notes, a Glossary and an Index. the body of the book is divided into 3 sections:
1) "Violent Nature, Resilient Life" covers the destructive forces of nature such as those that have wiped out vast numbers of species in the past and describes how life clings on and returns to repopulate zones of devastation.
2) "Biodiversity Rising" covers the generation of biodiversity: how and why new species evolve; the time this takes; potential extent of the diversity in various types of habitat.
3) "The Human Impact" covers the ways humans have driven and are driving species to extinction, the speed of destruction, the time it would take to re-establish a high level of biodiversity, the possible consequences of severe reduction in biodiversity for life on earth and humanity in particular, and what can be done to slow down and reverse the impoverishment trend.
The author presents his facts and lays out the case for conservation in a very cool and logical way. He doesn't give the impression of emotional over-reaction that some people in government and industry (those with a strong economic interest) accuse environmentalists of showing. The case set out in this book is chillingly clear and convincing. It's a subject that should concern everyone on the planet so I recommend this book to all of them.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece, 1 Nov 2003
This review is from: The Diversity of Life (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
If there's one book that changed my life this is it. The book starts with an almost poetic style. From page one, the author's incredible description of a moonless night in the Amazon jungle transports you there. You are reminded that whilst humans sleep at night, most animals have just begun their activities. Everything we always took for granted is looked at from several different angles throughout the book. Simple facts become beautifully interwound in the web of life. More importantly however, are the simple alternatives and solutions the author presents to our way of life which is rapidly eroding the natural habitat that we depend on for our survival. Books like these should be made compulsory at shcool. Oh, couldn't we substitute those bibles in hotel drawers with this book?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars my book for Desert Island Discs (apart from the Bible and Shakespeare), 28 Jun 2013
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This review is from: The Diversity of Life (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
I would recommend anyone who is interested in natural history to read this book but to preferably spend more on the hardback edition which has more photos. Ed Wilson's prose is classic and when I first read this book it took me to new levels of understanding. The chapter on Krakatoa is spellbinding. Twenty years ago when I first read it I had no knowledge about mass extinctions or plate tectonics and now these ideas are widely accepted. I bought this copy as it easily slips inside my handbag and I take it with me on train journeys. A winner.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The loss of life's diversity endangers not just the body but the spirit..., 20 July 2011
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Diversity of Life (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
This is from Chapter 4 of Edward Wilson's book:

"The most wonderful mystery of life may well be the means by which it created so much diversity from so little physical matter. The biosphere, all organisms combined, makes up only about one part in ten billion of the earth's mass. It is sparsely distributed through a kilometre-thick layer of soil, water and air stretched over a half billion square kilometres of surface. If the world were the size of an ordinary desktop globe and its surface were viewed edgewise an arm's length away, no trace of the biosphere could be seen with the naked eye. Yet life has divided into millions of species, the fundamental units, each playing a unique role in relation to the whole."

Wilson divides his ideas, theories and explanations into three main parts: Violent Nature, Resilient Life; Biodiversity Rising; and The Human Impact. In the first section he writes with an almost poetic intensity about the great extinctions that have occurred on the earth since time began. Krakatau (not Krakatoa - which is a westernisation) is an exemplar of how biodiversity can repopulate a devastated plot, an amazing process that is oddly moving to contemplate. Wilson then goes on to talk about the major extinctions - the great eruptions which have occurred repeatedly across long stretches of geological time - and the arguments for one or the other theory of why they happened - meteors or not? The earth appears to have cooled dramatically during the first four crises, eliminating many species and forcing others into smaller areas, rendering them more vulnerable to extinction. He makes the point that a complete recovery from each of the five major extinctions required tens of millions of years.

But the main thrust of this utterly riveting and beautifully argued book comes in the second part, Biodiversity Rising, Wilson makes a range of statements and arguments to the effect that biodiversity is the key to the maintenance of the world as we know it. His arguments would be hard to refute, as far as I, a non-scientist can judge, and I do not believe one could ever question this man's sincerity and the depth of his professional integrity.

In the third sector of the book Wilson looks at the human impact; why biodiversity is threatened and the environmental ethic that underpins his own attitude to the earth and which should underpin all attitudes. Wilson says: "The sixth great exctinction spasm of geological time is upon us, grace of mankind. Earth has at last acquired a force that can break the crucible of biodiversity." That's us, people. You and me. Dramatising the dangers, he quotes Virgil:

The way downward is easy from Avernus.
Black Dis's door stands open night and day.
But to retrace your steps to heaven's air,
There is the trouble, there is the toil...

This is a highly informative and deeply researched set of tenets for saving the earth - we must take action as a species, not individual countries or continents. At the very least the actions recommended in the closing section of this book must be taken. But then maybe our species needs to die out, just like the dinosaurs. This book was published in 1992. It's probably already too late for humankind.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A warning, and a celebration of all things living, 14 Jan 2010
By 
Jeremy Williams (Luton) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Diversity of Life (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
Edward Wilson, if you haven't come across him yet, is one of the world's foremost biologists, but he writes with an elegance and fluency that belies his scientific background. His basic premise in this overview of the topic is that biodiversity "is the key to the maintenance of the world as we know it." It's what makes life so resistant to extremes, and seen it through the climate and weather changes of the past millennia. Because life adapts and fills every niche, diversity is healthy, and "homogeneity means vulnerability."

Wilson's main interest is of course conservation. He explains the five great extinctions, by volcano, climate change and meteor strike, and then the sixth - which is us. I have to confess I got a little lost among the alleles as the book traces the collapse and subsequent rebuilding of diversity in each age. Genetics gets a little mathematical for my liking.

The real strength of this book however, is in it's descriptions of the sheer vibrancy of biodiversity, the miraculous intricacy of species and subspecies. Wilson points out that we might walk through a forest and miss a beetle on a tree, while the beetle might walk along the tree trunk and miss the mites in the bark, and they in turn know nothing of the bacteria beneath them. The human body is full of symbionts, and "an entire ecosystem can exist in the plumage of a bird."

It is these passages that the book really comes alive with Wilson's infectious enthusiasm for all things living. The Diversity of Life is a warning, but most of all it is a celebration.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An important book, 14 Mar 2007
This review is from: The Diversity Of Life (Hardcover)
An important book for anyone who wants to know about the diversity of life, why it matters, the impact of human activity upon it and how we can protect it. I don't know about required reading in schools but it should certainly be required reading for all those politicians who are now proudly professing their green credentials. If you haven't already, I would recommend getting the latest edition of the book - I have a 1992 print and it is a little dated in certain areas such as those that refer to extinction events and the human genome project.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Purchase recommendation, 15 April 2012
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This review is from: The Diversity of Life (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
I was unvited by amazon.co.uk to write a review of my purchase of E.O. Wilson's "The Diversity of Life". I would like to limit it to the following comment. I lent my first copy to another person, who didn't (probably want to) give it back to me. So I was determined to replace it as it is one of the most fascinating books on nature published in the last century, written by of one of the most eminent and influential scientists.

Christoph Bauer, Basel, Switzerland
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars got me interested in biology, 27 Nov 2011
This review is from: The Diversity of Life (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
This is a fascinating book. It needs some concentration, but it is very informative. It has made me love biology. Great stuff.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly informative and very enjoyable, 7 Mar 2011
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This review is from: The Diversity of Life (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
As a zoology degree student this has been extremely helpful in helping me gain further insight into ecology and the amazing diversity in the animal and plant kingdom. It is written in a scientific enough way to be educational but is simple for anyone to read regardless of whether they have any knowledge of biology. Its also really well written and full of really interesting examples which makes it so enjoyable to read. If you don't understand why it matters if a handfull of beetle species die (why does diversity matter?) this is the book that answers that question extremely well. It also explains why we are losing so many so rapidly.
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The Diversity of Life (Penguin Press Science)
The Diversity of Life (Penguin Press Science) by Edward O Wilson (Paperback - 26 April 2001)
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