Of melting ice caps, famines and inadvertent terraforming: Australian scientist Flannery charts the effects of the “human superorganism” on Earth at a critical juncture.
There have been other critical junctures, of course; Flannery (Environmental Sustainability/Macquarie Univ.; Here on Earth, 2011, etc.) delivers tales of human-caused woe, for instance, at the end of the Ice Age, in which the mammoth steppe, “the largest single land-based habitat on the planet,” was remade by human overuse—which, in turn, may have “altered Earth’s carbon balance,” the very thing we’re worrying about today. Packed into this app, apart from the complete text of the 2011 book, are video commentaries by Flannery, an engaging speaker, and supplemental videos and still photographs. In the latter category, to name those for just one chapter, there are images of traditional human communities on the steppe, as well as of the unfortunate large herbivores that fell to their spearheads—notably the “giant unicorn,” an unusually capable rhinoceros that once wandered throughout central Eurasia. The app has a reasonably intuitive bookmarking feature, and, most forward-looking, a section at the end of each chapter for the reader’s own notes alongside Twitter posts from the publisher and other readers. It’s a fat app, at half a gigabyte, but without any waste. However, it seems easy to crash—in our tests, we had to reinstall it twice before it settled down, and scrolling sometimes finds one stuck between pages.
However, once it’s up and running, it’s an engaging, irresistible work of multimedia pop science.