Inheritors of the Earth

How Nature is Thriving in an Age of Extinction
by Chris D. Thomas

Much like Nature Wars, this book argues that life overall is doing just fine in spite of the destruction mankind has wreaked on Earth. The author examines several aspects of this problem including humans wiping out other animals and destroying habitats, the impacts of climate change and movement of species into new areas- and in each case makes the point that while a few species here and there will die out in the face of rapid changes, many new ones arise as they diverge or hybridize, which is a wave of future evolution. He states many times over in the book that species diversity is actually increasing worldwide (is this true? several other reviewers have cast doubt on that). He posits that the mixing of species into new territories shouldn\’t be seen as a threat, but instead welcomed as a way of naturally seeing which animals, plants and other creatures are most fit to survive the future. There\’s lots of examples of rapid evolution and explanations that animals live nowadays where they never did ages ago, so what we see as being the \”natural state\” of things is arbitrary. Very similar in this vein to Where Do Camels Belong?

While he does say that we should avoid excessive impacts on the environment he doesn\’t seem to mourn the extinction of any unique species as long as the group as a whole is represented- loosing the short-tailed bat on New Zealand (which walks on the ground to catch prey) wouldn\’t matter overall because so many other bats are still here. Even if I didn\’t always get the argument, I found the examples fascinating- reading about hybridized sparrows, and how they spread from one small location to literally inhabit the entire world. I\’ve heard of the finches Darwin found in the Galapagos, but didn\’t know about the mockingbirds there- also very different on each island. I never read about the apple fly before- which uses markings on its wings to mimic a spider. I thought that monarch butterflies only wintered in Mexico, but this book tells me there\’s a group that overwinters in California (so the premise of this book might not be so far-fetched!) That\’s just a small sampling. I strongly disagree with the author\’s final argument that since humans are of course, natural living creatures, anything we do to the Earth is also part of the natural process and we should just let things unfold. That really rubs me wrong. But it was an interesting read that did give me a lot to think about.

I mentioned animals mostly in this post, but the book also talks about plant species a lot. While the copy I borrowed from the public library looks like the first cover shown here, I like this second one- because I\’m partial to ferns and its lushness conveys the main idea the author had- that life is thriving and will continue regardless of what we do (not sure if agree with that and I\’m simplifying here, but it\’s the main impression I came away with from reading this book).

Rating: 3/5                 300 pages, 2017

One Response

  1. I like the second cover a lot better, too. It looks so green and alive!I feel the same with you on disagreeing with \”anything we do to the Earth is also part of the natural process\”. So we could create a robot that kills off all animal life… and that's just a \”natural process\”?

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