451 pages, illus
The natural world as humans have always known it evolved close to 100 million years ago, with the appearance of flowering plants and pollinating insects during the age of the dinosaurs. Its tremendous history is now in danger of profound, catastrophic disruption. In Terra, a brilliant synthesis of evolutionary biology, paleontology, and modern environmental science, Michael Novacek shows how all three can help us understand and prevent what he (and others) call today's "mass extinction event."
Humanity's use of land, our consumption, the pollution we create, and our contributions to global warming are causing this crisis. True, the fossil record of hundreds of millions of years reveals that wild and bounteous nature has always evolved not quietly but thunderously, as species arise, flourish, die off, and are replaced by new species. We learn from paleontology and archaeology that for 50,000 years, human hunting, mining, and agriculture have changed many localities, sometimes irrevocably. But today, Novacek insists, our behavior endangers the entire global ecosystem. And if we disregard-through ignorance, antipathy, or apathy-the theory of evolution that developed with our modern understanding of the Earth's past, we not only impede enlightenment but threaten any practical strategy for our own survival.
"Terra is a much needed book on the human condition that could have been written only by a paleontologist with a thorough, field-based knowledge of evolutionary and environmental biology. Starting with the birth of Earth's modern ecosystems, in the Age of Dinosaurs, Novacek explains how the living environment came together in a way that yielded humanity, and why our careless destruction of it is a profound and eternal loss."
– Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University
"The author covers his material engagingly, interspersing it with personal anecdotes"
– Chris D Thomas, Nature vol 450, 15 November 2007.
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