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Posted January 4, 2015
From fertilizers changing the weather to the extinction of snails, Diane Ackerman explores the impacts human civilization has had on Earth and on life as we know it. The thing I enjoyed most about this book was how involved Ackerman was in her topics. If there was something that she wanted to write about, Ackerman would go out and search for the best information. She would talk with professionals and spend time getting involved herself. Because of this, the book itself felt like a journey with Ackerman to seek out knowledge of humanity’s impact.
Ackerman didn’t just stop at what humans have done, though. She explored the things that humans are doing and will do in the future. Many of these were fascinating technologies and ideas I had never heard of before like 3D printing organs and growing all of an area’s necessary food in a single vertical garden. While it’s clear that human development has negatively impacted many other species over time, these new technologies shed some optimism on the situation, showing that technologies like vertical farming could benefit all species and not just humans.
While each chapter seemed to tell a story, I only wish that Ackerman could have made better connections between some chapters. She often stopped mentioning a chapter or idea after it had been discussed, dropping it as if it stood alone. I feel that Ackerman could have made the book more interesting by exploring how these ideas might relate to one another or even work together. For example, she could have drawn more connections between the Blue Revolution (mariculture’s future in vertical farms) and the idea that human concentrations are now becoming more concentrated. After all, vertical farms could work well with urban populations since they produce a good amount of food while taking up little land. Despite this, there is a certain message in the diversity and disconnect between the book’s chapters. If anything, this shows that there is no single way that humans have impacted or will continue to impact the planet. Likewise, there is no single way that Earth will respond.
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