THE END OF EVOLUTION

ON MASS EXTINCTIONS AND THE PRESERVATION OF BIODIVERSITY

Ward demonstrates that the old adage ``those who don't remember the past are condemned to repeat it'' applies to natural history as well as human history. Ward, a paleontologist, eloquently argues this case in a whirlwind tour of the history of life on Earth. The number of species has gradually increased over the past 570 million years, but this trend has been periodically interrupted by 15 documented mass extinctions. Those that occurred 245 million and 65 million years ago particularly stand out. These events wiped out over one- half of the world's plant and animal species while completely reorganizing the planet's ecosystems. The first extinction paved the way for the dinosaurs. The second eliminated the dinosaurs and enabled mammals to dominate the land. Ward thinks we are in the midst of a third calamitous mass extinction that began 2.5 million year ago with the onset of the first Ice Age. The current mass extinction, like the first two, is accompanied by a drop in sea level and a gradual change in global temperature. Whereas a meteor impact delivered the dinosaurs' coup de grÉce, the current extinction is being exacerbated by humanity's disturbance of fragile ecosystems. Ward cites the disappearance of species in Hawaii and North America to illustrate this chain of events. But whereas those extinctions were largely caused by preindustrial peoples, Ward notes that overpopulation, global warming, deforestation, and ozone depletion will accelerate the process. By examining biodiversity from a historical perspective, this book complements Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson's The Diversity of Life. Most readers inclined to purchase this book will likely share Ward's impassioned concern regarding the great catastrophe now underway. Perhaps the book's only major deficiency is Ward's failure to explain to the Rush Limbaughs of the world why we should care if humankind continues to decimate the Earth's flora and fauna.

Pub Date: June 15, 1994

ISBN: 0-553-08812-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1994

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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