Books  General Natural History  General Natural History 

Life of Earth: Portrait of a Beautiful, Middle-aged, Stressed-out World

Popular Science

By: Stanley A Rice (Author)

255 pages, b/w photos

Prometheus Books

Hardback | Sep 2011 | #187801 | ISBN-13: 9781616142254
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £28.95 $35/€32 approx

About this book

In this portrait of Planet Earth, biologist Stanley A. Rice discusses the evolution of the network of life and the crucial role played by humans in determining the future of our world.

Unlike most books on earth history, which present the story of life on our planet in terms of one chronological period after another, Rice discusses Earth’s teeming diversity in terms of pivotal evolutionary developments. Among these, he stresses the importance of the following qualities as key determinants of the Earth’s biodiversity.
Symbiosis. When single cells began working together, it sparked the sudden appearance of complex animals. Much later symbiotic relationships led to flowering plants that depended on animals for pollination and seed dispersal.

Sexual Selection.With the advent of sexual selection, there developed an astonishing world of complex behavior and a dizzying array of life forms. In humans, sexual selection exerted a great influence on the development of our large brains.

Altruism. Species learning to work together resulted in even greater variety and complexity. In early humans, altruism gave rise to ever-widening social circles and the spread of culture.
Rice also discusses the role of photosynthesis in establishing and maintaining life on earth; the evidence for ancient natural catastrophes, which caused widespread extinctions; and the importance of religion and the recent use of scientific reasoning in the development and the future of the human species.

Rice’s eloquent, panoramic perspective is well designed to foster an appreciation for the scope of life on Earth and to encourage wise stewardship of the natural world on which our survival depends.

"Eloquent in tone and panoramic in perspective, Life of Earth fosters a vivid appreciation of our planet."
Scientific American Book Club

"A far better read than Genesis. It is truly a love story about our Mother Earth."
– John Perlin, Author of A Forest Journey

"This is a well-written and comprehensive work that illuminates the subject and the important role of humans – one of the most engaging works I have read in many years."
– Victor H. Hutchison, George Lynn Cross Research Professor Emeritus, Department of Zoology, University of Oklahoma

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Stanley A. Rice, PhD, is the author of Green Planet: How Plants Keep the Earth Alive and The Encyclopedia of Evolution. He is a professor of biological sciences at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant. His website of ecology essays can be found at, and his evolution blog is at

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