Kirkus Star


The Race to Remake Civilization in Earth's Newest Age
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In his first book, Scientific American editor Biello argues that it is not a lack of money or technology that prevents our addressing environmental and societal ills but rather a lack of motivation.

The author, who hosts the ongoing PBS documentary Beyond the Light Switch, believes we are writing a new chapter in the history of the Earth, much of it composed in ignorance. We are terraforming our own world without conscious design, exerting global influence without the exercise of global responsibility. The linchpin of his book is the Anthropocene, the idea of a geologic epoch in which humankind represents the world-changing force of nature for the first time. Biello's stance and sympathies are quite clear, but he thankfully avoids polemics. His approach is unusually balanced; he is keen to show that every coin has a second face, not least the face of hope vs. despair. As the author notes, we must mature as a species, ditch short-term thinking, and recognize that we are now influencing outcomes in ways we can't foresee. It is our fate—not just the planet's—that hangs in the balance. Biello advocates a fundamentally new perspective on where we live and how, assuring that we have the tools to address almost any challenge, if not yet the will. His book is also an expansive ecological “history” of past, present, and future. Exceptionally well-researched if occasionally repetitive, the book is crammed with astonishing facts and fascinating speculations. Biello examines the inefficiencies of our neo-fossil age, the nature and origins of the city, wildness (as opposed to “wilderness”), humanity's role in the pace of extinctions, the appalling lack of electricity and clean water in much of the world, a new space race, waste as the foundation of modern society, and varied concepts of geoengineering.

In this well-written, significant book, Biello insists that humans, the world's most successful invasive species, have the ability to engage in planetary protection and human survival, but it will require wisdom, innovation, and restraint.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-4767-4390-5
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2016


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