The Time Before History: 5 Million Years of Human Impact

The Time Before History: 5 Million Years of Human Impact

by Colin Tudge
     
 
Drawing on the findings of geology, anthropology, archaeology and earth science, Colin Tudge discusses in detail and intertwines histories of the planet Earth and the evolution of humankind.

Overview

Drawing on the findings of geology, anthropology, archaeology and earth science, Colin Tudge discusses in detail and intertwines histories of the planet Earth and the evolution of humankind.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With majestic sweep and subtle wit, British science writer Tudge brings an astonishing perspective to the story of humanity by telescoping three intertwined dramas: the past 40,000 years, in which Homo sapiens truly got into its stride, set against the five-million-year history of hominids, set against the 3.5 billion years of life preceding the hominids' arrival. Tudge views primates (lemurs, monkeys, apes, humans) as a ``fifth column,'' creeping up on other creatures over an 80-million-year period, rarely dominating but ultimately producing a lineage that evolved into us. He favors the multi-migration model of the ``Out of Africa'' hypothesis, which holds that Homo ergaster, not Homo erectus, evolved to produce modern Homo sapiens. Drawing on the latest research, he discusses the five mass extinctions that interrupted life on Earth; the drift of continents; the Tibetan plateau as the planet's principal cooling mechanism; the growth of our ``all-purpose'' brain and its invention of language. Tudge concludes by scanning the next million years, with emphasis on devising sustainable economies, conserving species and feeding the world's population. His eloquent, immensely rewarding synthesis fosters a new appreciation of the interdependence of our fragile biosphere. BOMC, QPB, History Book Club and Library of Science alternates. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Nearly everyone thinks of human history as covering the past 2000 years. Yet, this conventional time period only tells us about the specific activities of human beings after they already controlled the world and mastered its other species; it does not tell us about the changing nature of plate tectonics and their impact on species evolution; it does not encompass the significance of how we separated from other animals in our own evolutionary development, nor of the tremendous impact we have had on our environment and other species. Science writer Tudge (The Engineer in the Garden: Genes and Genetics, LJ 2/15/95) begins by putting time into perspective so that we can understand how vast is our past; he helps us see that all evolution is part of a bigger whole-an unfolding process affected by shifting continents, climactic changes, and our own impact on the planet and its ecosystems. He presents an exceptional account of human evolution in a concise yet original manner. He defines our origins in a biological, as well as historical, context and applies the lessons that we should learn from our mistakes as well as our achievements to provide a blueprint for the future. Highly recommended for most libraries.-Gloria Maxwell, Kansas City P.L., Kan.
Donna Seaman
British science writer Tudge, author of "Engineer in the Garden" , wants us to see human history in its entirety and in terms of its often overlooked connections to the earth and our fellow species. Tudge begins by discussing the workings of the earth's grand ecological systems, then moves on to lively explanations of the mechanism of evolution. Philosophical, conversational, and frequently witty, Tudge offers fresh and stimulating perspectives on such aspects of life as how climate and plate tectonics influence evolution and how crucial our manual and verbal dexterities have been to our becoming the "all-purpose animal that in principle can solve any problem." Tudge hastens to say that this adaptability and power do not give us the right to destroy other species, but much of his history of humanity analyzes the negative impact we've had on the earth ever since we mastered fire and agriculture, from the depletion of the ozone layer to the pollution of the oceans and the decimation of numerous animal species. An invigoratingly syncretic look at five million years of human life.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780684807263
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
11/19/1995
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
6.41(w) x 9.47(h) x 1.08(d)

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