The Diversity of Life (Questions of Science)

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9780393319408: The Diversity of Life (Questions of Science)

"A superb blend of lyrical description, sweeping historical writing, lucid scientific explanation, and dire warnings. . . . The most important scientific book of the year." ― Boston Globe

In this book a master scientist tells the story of how life on earth evolved. Edward O. Wilson eloquently describes how the species of the world became diverse and why that diversity is threatened today as never before. A great spasm of extinction ― the disappearance of whole species ― is occurring now, caused this time entirely by humans. Unlike the deterioration of the physical environment, which can be halted, the loss of biodiversity is a far more complex problem ― and it is irreversible. Defining a new environmental ethic, Wilson explains why we must rescue whole ecosystems, not only individual species. He calls for an end to conservation versus development arguments, and he outlines the massive shift in priorities needed to address this challenge. No writer, no scientist, is more qualified than Edward O. Wilson to describe, as he does here, the grandeur of evolution and what is at stake. "Engaging and nontechnical prose. . . . Prodigious erudition. . . . Original and fascinating insights." ― John Terborgh, New York Review of Books, front page review "Eloquent. . . . A profound and enduring contribution." ― Alan Burdick, Audubon Color plates

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Review:

Humans, the Harvard University entomologist Edward O. Wilson has observed, have an innate--or at least extremely ancient--connection to the natural world, and our continued divorce from it has led to the loss of not only "a vast intellectual legacy born of intimacy" with nature, but also our very sanity. In The Diversity of Life, Wilson takes a sweeping view of our planet's natural richness, remarking on what on the surface seems a paradox: "almost all the species that ever lived are extinct, and yet more are alive today than at any time in the past." (Wilson's elegant explanation is a scientific education in itself.) This great variety of species is, of course, threatened by habitat destruction, global climate change, and a host of other forces, and Wilson revisits his oft-stated call for the protection of wilderness and undeveloped land, noting that "wilderness has virtue unto itself and needs no extraneous justification." We should, he continues, regard every species, "every scrap of biodiversity," as precious and irreplaceable, without attempting to quantify that regard with utilitarian measures such as "bio-economics." In short, Wilson offers with this book a simple, workable environmental ethic that extends the work of Aldo Leopold and other conservationists. A remarkably productive and influential scientist, Wilson is also a fine writer, and his survey of biodiversity makes for welcome and instructive reading. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Edward O. Wilson is widely recognized as one of the world’s preeminent biologists and naturalists. The author of more than thirty books, including The Social Conquest of Earth, The Meaning of Human Existence, and Letters to a Young Scientist, Wilson is a professor emeritus at Harvard University. The winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, he lives with his wife, Irene Wilson, in Lexington, Massachusetts.

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