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Originally published in 2001, now available again in paperback.
This superb book tells the story of North America over the last 65 million years, from the arrival of the largest asteroid ever to hit the earth, through the evolution of North America's landscape, mountains, forests, prairies, volcanoes and rivers, its climate and its flora and fauna, from the Burgess Shale through to the arrival of homo sapiens, the story of the Native Americans and the impact of the arrival of European invaders and their legacy.
At once an admirable chronicle of North America's often surprising ecological past (how many of us know that the camel originated here? Or that the grizzly bear is actually a Eurasian import?) it is also a dark history of the colossal destruction of biodiversity over the last two hundred years. Here is Flannery in a recent THES article:
'North America's economic pre-eminence has come about because the resources of a rich yet middle-sized continent have been mined to provide a capital base that is the envy of the world. In a biological sense, the over-exploitation of the frontier was akin to going out in a blaze of glory. By the 1950s, North Americans had destroyed about four-fifths of the continent's wildlife, cut more than half its timber, all but destroyed its native cultures, dammed most of its rivers, obliterated its most productive freshwater fisheries and depleted a good proportion of its soils. They had won a great victory in the war and had created one of the most affluent and self-contented societies, yet still the pillage of their natural resources was not finished. By 1999, nearly 1,200 native North American species had been placed on the official endangered list. But worse, it has been estimated that as many as 16,000 species are in grave danger of extinction.'
Tim Flannery is an internationally acclaimed scientist, explorer and conservationist, described by Sir David Attenborough as being 'in the league of the all-time great explorers like Dr David Livingstone'. His books include The Future Eaters, Throwim Way Leg, A Gap in Nature, Country and The Weather Makers.