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The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment

Overview

"Over millions of years and through countless genetic twists and turns, humanity has evolved into the dominant animal. We have populated the globe, reshaped most landscapes, eradicated myriad populations and species of other organisms, and even transformed the oceans and climate." "The vast environmental changes we have produced and the intricate cultures we have created are now shaping evolution. From the complex workings of our genes to what we eat and how we govern ourselves, we are changing our world and our world is changing us. We are
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The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment

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Overview

"Over millions of years and through countless genetic twists and turns, humanity has evolved into the dominant animal. We have populated the globe, reshaped most landscapes, eradicated myriad populations and species of other organisms, and even transformed the oceans and climate." "The vast environmental changes we have produced and the intricate cultures we have created are now shaping evolution. From the complex workings of our genes to what we eat and how we govern ourselves, we are changing our world and our world is changing us. We are creating our future. But what kind of future will it be?" Renowned scientists and thinkers Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich tackle that fundamental question in this exploration of evolution, environment, and culture. The Dominant Animal is a scientific field trip across time and space, from the microscopic to the global. The Ehrlichs weave together the theories of Darwin, empirical studies of fruit flies, lizards, and disease, the fossil record, the psychology of perception and belief systems, the nature of the human genome, and the power of culture and environment into a single illuminating thread.
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Editorial Reviews

Plenty
“…The Dominant Animal tells the story of how mankind came to dominate nearly every inch of the earth. [It] spans the entire history of the world, weaving both cultural and biological evolution into the ambitious narrative. At its core are timely questions we would all do well to consider: Is it in our best interest to dominate Earth? Are we creating a future we want to live in?”
Seed
“Alpha male and female of contemporary science ... the Ehrlichs convey a message at once chilling and hopeful…. The big ideas and the tenor of The Dominant Animal are right on. The book rejects starry eyed insistence on new technology as humankind's savior in favor of socially responsible, if admittedly difficult-to-enact, prescriptions.”
Washington Post
“No one has more authority to write on these matters than the husband-and-wife team of Stanford biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich. For decades now they have been documenting and warning of humans' effects on the environment. Their new book, The Dominant Animal, continues their chronicle of the damage we have done to our home…. This is an important book,with much information and some really stimulating ideas. We need to build on these ideas, because the world is in an environmental mess and things are not getting better."
Nuvo Weekly

"One of the essential books of 2008.... The Ehrlichs walk you through a basic course in evolution and genetics before moving into a cultural evolution and its devastating impact on ecosystems, worldwide."
Palo Alto Weekly

"The Ehrlichs, in The Dominant Animal, cover an enormous amount of scientific ground in looking at both the big picture in terms of environmental dangers and challenges while also offering detailed explanations of how humans have evolved, both genetically and culturally, within our environment. The book relates precise science in easily understandable terms."
New Scientist

"Covering a vast swathe of disciplines, from genetics, evolution and ecology to climatology, economics and global politics, the book almost reads like a primer for the concerned citizen.... This marvellous compendium should be required reading."
Vancouver Sun

"In The Dominant Animal, the Ehrlichs step back and analyse the big picture, looking carefully at how humans have evolved to dominance and, in the process, are laying waste the planet. Their message is that our technological advances aren't matched by how well we treat one another or the environment around us."
Shift

"Imagine a UN Millennium Assessment of Human Behavior! This an important and sobering work…"
Eagle Tribune

"Is there an armchair scientist on your gift list? Then you can't go wrong with The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment by Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich. This fascinating book is not for a lightweight; it's filled with hypotheses, insight and ideas for thinkers. This is a perfect gift for someone who loves to study culture, but will also be a great for anyone who's trying to 'go green' this year."
Trends in Ecology and Evolution

"Buy this for your next seminar class.... or be inspired and make an undergraduate course out of it...Yes, you've read some of this before, but not all of it, and not told so well, or with such passion and humor."

— Stuart Pimm

Trends in Ecology and Evolution - Stuart Pimm

"Buy this for your next seminar class.... or be inspired and make an undergraduate course out of it...Yes, you've read some of this before, but not all of it, and not told so well, or with such passion and humor."
author of prize-winning books such as Collapse and Guns, Germs, and Steel - Jared Diamond
"This sparkling book is a great guide to what's essential about humans, the world, and how they affect each other. Along the way, you'll pick up delicious tidbits such as what Mussolini's basic problem was, and why we are so sure that tiny sequoia seeds grow into 300-foot sequoia trees even though no one has ever seen it happen."
Director, The Woods Hole Research Center - John P. Holdren

"No other scientific couple could produce a book of this brilliance on where we came from and where we're going. The Ehrlichs, who have been at the cutting edge of the science, have interwoven evolutionary history and our environmental dilemma into a compelling and vital story."
author of The Bill McKibben Reader - Bill McKibben

"This is a grand tour of the current state of ecological science, and a tour de force of observation, insight, and suggestion."
President, Missouri Botanical Garden - Peter H. Raven

"This is a brilliant and fascinating account of how we became the planet's ruling species and now the major force determining the future of evolution. The Ehrlichs' broad perspective and lucid prose bring fresh understanding to what's going on in the world today. Everyone should read this book."
SEED Magazine

"Alpha male and female of contemporary science ... the Ehrlichs convey a message at once chilling and hopeful…. The big ideas and the tenor of The Dominant Animal are right on. The book rejects starry eyed insistence on new technology as humankind's savior in favor of socially responsible, if admittedly difficult-to-enact, prescriptions."
Audubon

"Their latest book, The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment, continues to drum home the message that humans are on a collision course with ecological catastrophe. But what's new and notable is the dual biological and cultural lens the Ehrlichs use to diagnose the underlying cause of our predicament... the book left me wanting more—hungry for revolutionary new insights whose very existence would shine the right way forward. If we'd listened to Ehrlich 40 years ago, perhaps we'd already be on that path."
The Washington Post

"No one has more authority to write on these matters than the husband-and-wife team of Stanford biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich. For decades now they have been documenting and warning of humans' effects on the environment. Their new book, The Dominant Animal, continues their chronicle of the damage we have done to our home…. This is an important book,with much information and some really stimulating ideas. We need to build on these ideas, because the world is in an environmental mess and things are not getting better."
Plenty Magazine

"…The Dominant Animal tells the story of how mankind came to dominate nearly every inch of the earth. [It] spans the entire history of the world, weaving both cultural and biological evolution into the ambitious narrative. At its core are timely questions we would all do well to consider: Is it in our best interest to dominate Earth? Are we creating a future we want to live in?"
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597260978
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/2009
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 472
  • Sales rank: 1,243,972
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul R. Ehrlich is Bing Professor of Population Studies and professor of biology at Stanford University and a fellow of the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics. The author of Human Natures, The Population Bomb, and many other books, he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of numerous international honors, including the Crafoord Prize and the MacArthur “genius award.”

            Anne H. Ehrlich is affiliated with Stanford's Biology Department and Center for Conservation Biology, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has served on the board of the Sierra Club and other conservation organizations, has coauthored more than ten books with her husband, and is a recipient of the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement and the United Nations Environment Programme/Sasakawa Environment Prize.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 3

Ch. 1 Darwin's Legacy and Mendel's Mechanism 9

Ch. 2 The Entangled Bank 35

Ch. 3 Our Distant Past 54

Ch. 4 Of Genes and Culture 68

Ch. 5 Cultural Evolution: How We Relate to One Another 97

Ch. 6 Perception, Evolution, and Beliefs 119

Ch. 7 The Ups and Downs of Populations 140

Ch. 8 History as Cultural Evolution 158

Ch. 9 Cycles of Life (and Death) 172

Ch. 10 Ecosystems and Human Domination of Earth 193

Ch. 11 Consumption and Its Costs 207

Ch. 12 A New Imperative 234

Ch. 13 Altering the Global Atmosphere 255

Ch. 14 Energy: Are We Running Out of It? 290

Ch. 15 Saving Our Natural Capital 310

Ch. 16 Governance: Tackling Unanticipated Consequences 331

Epilogue 363

Notes 369

Selected Bibliography 381

Acknowledgments 403

Index 407

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