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The Future of Life

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2005

    Well Written and Relevant

    The Future of Life by Edward Wilson is an informative and well-balanced novel with a powerful message about the impact human beings have had and are continuing to have upon Earth. The book is great for those with a love of the environment, and even better for people who do not understand the value of, or place any importance on the natural world. Wilson describes the bottleneck the human race is facing as caused by an ever-expanding population and ever-dwindling natural resources. He maintains that corrective action must be taken to curb the mass extinctions currently taking place as a direct result of humanity passing through this bottleneck. However, Wilson does not stop are merely stating the problem. He spends the last chapter of the book, appropriately titled `The Solution¿ describing the path and policies that humans must adopt to reverse the trend of destructive exploitation of the natural world. Wilson takes care to explain both sides of the issue, and doesn¿t use the book as a platform for blaming capitalism for destroying the environment. In the first chapter, `The Bottleneck¿, he writes about the stereotypical `Economist¿ and ¿Environmentalist¿ viewpoints and states that both are overly dramatized. Throughout the book, he presents arguments that balance the need of aiding the economy and the environment, as seen by the statement: ¿No one can be expected to leave a reserve inviolate if it is his source of food and fuel. A patch of forest fenced off and patrolled is a cruel insult to hungry people shut out, and unworkable in the long run¿ (168). He then explains methods for making conservation profitable for those who must practice it directly. The chapter ¿How Much is the Biosphere Worth¿ addresses this issue well. Wilson makes it clear that a forest is worth far more than the lumber it is harvested for, as with the example of the Catskill Watershed that provides water purification for New York City, a service worth billions of dollars. The final chapter, ¿The Solution¿, contains a thorough description of past, present, and future methods for conserving the biodiversity of the planet. Wilson discusses the growing influence of nongovernmental organizations like Conservation International and their efforts to protect greater stretches of wilderness. He then lists eleven key elements that humanity needs to implement to save the biosphere, from ¿complete the mapping of the world¿s biological diversity¿ to ¿use biodiversity more effectively to benefit the world economy as a whole¿(162-3). Taken together, these elements are certainly a tall order, but they do a thorough job of addressing the key issues raised by Wilson. On a technical note, the novel is not always easy to read. Many passages are written in the passive voice, making comprehension of some of Wilson¿s ideas more difficult than they might be otherwise. Also, some of his claims on global warming and extinction are stated as known fact without a mention of a source: ¿ More frequent heat waves, violent storms, forest fires, droughts, and flooding damage are the spawn of the historically unprecedented pace of climate change¿ (68). It is hard to determine the source of other data that is pulled from studies and academic papers but not directly cited in the text because the facts are not footnoted, and are simply listed by page number in a notes appendix in the back of the book. Aside from these few weak points, the book is strong, and the majority of his arguments are backed up and illustrated well. A good example is the discussion of deforestation as taken from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The data cited says that the ¿worldwide rate of clear cutting [of tropical rainforests] has been close to 1% per year. Where all tropical rainforests occupy approximately equal to the lower forty-eight United States, they are being removed at the rate of half the state of Florida every year¿ (59-60). Wilson¿s

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2005

    The Future of Life doesn't look so good...but it doesn't look so bad either...

    Edward O. Wilson is no doubt a scientist before a writer. The first sentence of The Future of Life reads, ¿The totality of life, known as the biosphere to scientist and creation to theologians, is a membrane of organisms wrapped around Earth so thin it cannot be seen edgewise from a space shuttle, yet internally complex that most species composing it remain undiscovered.¿ I believe that Eddy uses such intelligent and complex diction because he wants to come across as intelligent and complex. Sadly, his goal is reached but the use of this elevated diction only acts to create a barrier between the reader and himself. Even though Wilson is an educated scientist, he could have restated this opening sentence in a much simpler manner that would have been received much easier by the reader. ¿Life is so complex and full of beings that many species still remained undiscovered.¿ If Wilson were to write in this way, perhaps I would have taking a better liking to him and consequently have listened with more receptivity. Looking beyond his diction however, Eddy does a fairly good job in the first chapter of filling the reader¿s mind with all sorts of unthinkable species and forms of life. He even explains a little about extremophiles, species adapted to live at the edge of biological tolerance. At the end of chapter one, Wilson uses the technique of ethos, an appeal to our emotions. He goes on to explain how the majority of cells in our body belong to bacterial and other microorganismic species, and how this is the ¿biospheric membrane that covers Earth, and you and me.¿ The last sentence of this chapter attempts to play our emotions by writing how tragic it is to lose a major part of this biospheric membrane before we can learn what it is and how it can be savored and used. If I didn¿t know better, I¿d say that poor old Eddy is attempting to get us to do something about our lively biosphere before it¿s too late. Now why wouldn¿t he just come out and tell us this instead of using a cheap trick to win us over? In chapter two, Wilson strikes gold when he writes about the economist and environmentalist. He writes, ¿Perhaps the time has come to cease calling it `the environmentalist¿ view, as thought it were a lobbying effort outside the mainstream of human activity, and to start calling it the real-world view.¿ When I read this sentence, I immediately thought to myself: this guy is good. Maybe we should stop categorizing things as ¿environmentalist¿ because all it does is make the idea of environmentalism seem like a radical, out-there kind of view instead of the logical, popular view that it should be. Even though Wilson hits some good points in chapter two, at the end of the chapter his ships crashes into a couple of rocks before safely landing. He writes, ¿It [environmentalism] is the guiding principle of those devoted to the health of the planet. But it is not yet a general worldview, evidently not compelling enough to distract many people away from the primal diversions of sport, politics, religion, and private wealth.¿ Here Wilson is trying to get across to the reader the importance that environmentalism does not but should play in our world. The error in this sentence however comes when he chooses to use the word ¿distract¿. I¿m not sure if he knew what he was implying when he used this word, but I do know that if he did not specifically choose this word, then he made a major mistake. If Wilson was trying to emphasize the importance of environmentalism, why would he write that it ¿distracts¿ us? Granted he does write that it is ¿evidently not compelling enough to distract many people¿, but why would he choose the word distract? It would have been much more effective and logical for him to write, ¿¿not compelling enough to interest people instead of their usual interests of¿¿ The other rock that Wilson¿s ship scrapes is found in two unnecessary words that he chose to include: I believe. It¿s quite

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2010

    A Very Sophisticated and Compelling Read

    I had the option of reading this book for extra credit at school. Most of the other books were uninteresting and they dragged on and on. However, this book was a great read and everyone should invest their time to read this!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2003

    A must read - even students like it!

    I teach college environmental science courses & I have my students read The Future of Life. The response I get from them is truly amazing - they actually liked having to read this book! For those not familiar with Wilson's other works (Biophilia, The Diversity of Life, etc.), his writing style is unlike anything I've encountered in scientific literature. It is actually pleasurable to read. This is often surprising to my students and keeps them reading. On top of that, his writing is relatively balanced - this is another reason my students like it so much. They expect to get a sermon, but instead are provided with perspectives from both sides of this issue. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in gaining a better understanding of biodiversity issues in our world today.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2012

    This book is a beautifully written account of the circumstances

    This book is a beautifully written account of the circumstances currently affecting life on earth. The author, a scientist, writes in a way that allows a lay person to understand, yet at the same time challenges the reader to improve their conceptual ability to comprehend the complexities of life and its inter-relation throughout the biosphere, especially the issues we are facing as to our very existence. Wilson also gives us what is likely the most realistic plan for addressing serious environmental issues. This is an amazing book and I highly recommend that it should be one of those that you pass around immediately after finishing it. The book is literary art, acutely educational, while simultaneously providing optimistic solutions for the future of life on this planet. A paraphrased excerpt: In order for everyone on earth to have an American lifestyle we would need 4 planet earths to provide those resources.

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  • Posted November 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great book

    the whole time i was reading this book i could picture the author/biologist talking to be about his life's studies. I read a good portion of this book while sitting on the back patio and couldn't put it down. I woke up early a couple days just to read this book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2005

    This book was truley mind-numbing!

    I was bewildered at the fact that it was mandatory to read The Future of Life as an Oakland University rhetoric student. The first thing that came to my mind was, ¿This is an English class, why do I have to read a science book? The concepts George O. Wilson was trying to express were biodiversity, the negative effects humans have on the environment, and endangered species. After considering those concepts one might think I would be thrilled to read it, yet that is not the case. The current focus of my rhetoric class is the environment I am ashamed that they recommended this book for the basis of that focus. I believe that the scientist Edward O. Wilson would make a great textbook-writer. Being a critical reader, I try to utilize what I am reading to draw my own conclusions. While reading this book, I could not even remember the point of the previous line I just read, let alone make any conclusions. I remember actually falling asleep at least five times while reading this book. Am I ashamed to admit that? No. I received some of the best sleep in my life turning the pages of this ¿textbook¿. The reason why I consider it a textbook instead of a novel is because it is the type of book that everyone should read, but doesn¿t necessarily want to. For example, Wilson was very informative on his information of how the world is considered to be a ¿bottleneck¿. In that chapter, he emphasizes how big a factor population is. I appreciate the information however, the format in which he delivered it reminded me of a textbook. Not to mention the novel had a glossary, notes, and an index. All it needed were critical thinking questions, and bolded vocabulary words, and I would have really been convinced that it was a textbook. Giving the book the benefit of the doubt, I believe that you should be a scientist in order to appreciate this book. This book would probably hit close to home for scientist since they probably know all of the information already. Unfortunately, it is entitled The Future of Life, so that means that everyone ¿living life¿ should see it as being necessary. This means that it should not just be written for the scientist and science-lovers, but by every human being. I believe that it is important for any book to be well-organized and cover the basics in writing. I took more time red-marking the book than really getting into the information. There were so many logical fallacies and grammatical errors. The first I can point out is on page 25, where the author started the sentence out with ¿But¿, and on page 122, he starts his sentence out with ¿And¿. You might think that jumping from page 25 to 122 means that I can¿t effectively substantiate his errors. However, that just shows that he had 97 pages to correct his mistakes, only he didn¿t do it. Included with all of the ¿buts¿ and ¿ands¿ were a plethora of run-on sentences. It is difficult to appreciate literature, no matter the text, when it doesn¿t follow basic grammatical rules. There were also many logical fallacies. Instead of pulling out my hair, and spotting them throughout the book, I just sampled from one chapter. In the chapter How Much is the Biosphere Worth, I found plenty. The first is false dilemma. On page 106 it read, ¿To supplant natural ecosystems entirely, even mostly, is an economic and even physical impossibility, and we would eventually die if we tried.¿ Wow, are we really going to die? There was also one on that same page where he starts his sentence out with ¿Most environmental scientist believe that¿ This is misrepresenting a group. Who exactly are these scientists, and am I suppose to believe you just because you refer to them? It is very hard to be convinced of an argument when logical fallacies are present, and this book didn¿t do a great job at leaving them out. The book also lacked organization and effective style. It was hard for me to follow a lot of the information because of the way that is was organized. In one chapter he jumped to

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2009

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