452 pages, 16 plates with colour photos
We live in epoch-making times. Literally. The changes we humans have made in recent decades have altered our world beyond anything it has experienced in its 4.5 billion-year history – we have become a force on a par with earth-shattering asteroids and planet-cloaking volcanoes. As a result, our planet is said to be crossing a geological boundary – from the Holocene into the Anthropocene, or Age of Man.
Quitting her job at science journal Nature, Gaia Vince decided to travel the world at the start of this new age, to explore what all these changes really mean for the people living on the frontline of the planet we've made. She found ordinary people solving severe crises in ingenious, effective ways. Take the retired railway worker who's building artificial glaciers in the Himalayas, for example, or the man who's painting mountains white to attract snowfall. Meet the villagers harvesting water out of the desert air and farmers combining the latest genetic modifications with ancient irrigation techniques; witness the electrified reefs in the Maldives and the man who's making islands out of rubbish in the Caribbean.
Alongside these extraordinary stories, Gaia looks at how humanity's changes are reshaping the living planet and identifies some of the ways we need to engineer Earth for our future, bringing to life what the Anthropocene means for all of us and how we might survive the coming centuries.
"Gaia Vince effortlessly weaves individual stories into an epic, global narrative, to present us with a positive vision of a humane, brave new world"
– Alice Roberts
"A fine and timely book. Gaia Vince shows us how to stay steady and cheerful despite the ever irntensifying drama of the Anthropocene"
– James Lovelock
"'Gaia's remarkable journey is a unique inventory of life on earth, a both wild and human, at this important moment in our history"
– Bill Oddie
"The aptly named Gaia Vince has wandered the world seeking the truth about the Anthropocene, the name given to the new era in which humans dominate the planet and its fundamental processes. The result is a marvellous book: high-class reportage rooted in good science. At the same time, Vince has created a love letter to life on the road and to the people she meets: an ode to humanity. [...] Too many travel books end up navel-gazing, or padded out with literary quotes. This one, however, is fresh and unencumbered. Vince glides from ecology to economics, politics to philosophy, seeing it all through the people she meets. [...] Vince never denies that the Anthropocene could come to a sticky end, as brief and devastating as the aftermath of an asteroid strike. But I like her optimism and her faith in people, who she sees as "resourceful, intelligent and endlessly adaptable". We can make it, she says. Maybe we will."
– Fred Pearce, New Scientist, 30-06-2014
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Gaia Vince is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in science and the environment. She has been the front editor of the journal Nature Climate Change, the news editor of Nature and online editor of New Scientist. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, The Times, Science, Scientific American, Australian Geographic and the Australian. She has a regular column, Smart Planet, on BBC Online, and devises and presents programmes about the Anthropocene for BBC radio. She blogs at WanderingGaia.com and tweets at @WanderingGaia.