“Simultaneously sobering and exhilarating, Michael Tennesen’s wide-ranging survey of disasters highlights both life’s fragility and its metamorphosing persistence” (Booklist) and describes what life on earth could look like after the next mass extinction.
A growing number of scientists agree we are headed toward a mass extinction, perhaps in as little as 300 years. Already there have been five mass extinctions in the last 600 million years, including the Cretaceous Extinction, during which an asteroid knocked out the dinosaurs. Though these events were initially destructive, they were also prime movers of evolutionary change in nature. And we can see some of the warning signs of another extinction event coming, as our oceans lose both fish and oxygen, and our lands lose both predators and prey. In The Next Species, Michael Tennesen questions what life might be like after it happens.
In thoughtful, provocative ways, Tennesen discusses the future of nature and whether humans will make it through the bottleneck of extinction. Could life suddenly get very big as it did before the arrival of humans? Could the conquest of Mars lead to another form of human? Could we upload our minds into a computer and live in a virtual reality? How would we recognize the next humans? Are they with us now?
Tennesen delves into the history of the planet and travels to rainforests, canyons, craters, and caves all over the world to explore the potential winners and losers of the next era of evolution. His predictions, based on reports and interviews with top scientists, have vital implications for life on earth today. The Next Species is “an engrossing history of life, the dismal changes wrought by man, and a forecast of life after the sixth mass extinction” (Kirkus Reviews).
With a different title, this book could have been a successful, though uninspired, account of the mass species extinction associated with the Anthropocene epoch. Science journalist Tennesen (The Complete Idiot's Guide to Global Warming) surveys the previous five mass extinctions that have shaped life on earth and examines some of the ways in which humans are destroying habitats and biodiversity today. But despite his title, he never explores what the world might look like if humans were to vanish, or which species might expand to fill some of the ecological roles humans have dominated. Instead, Tennesen briefly delves into a very speculative future of humanity itself, with one superficial chapter focusing on the possibility of humans moving into space and colonizing Mars, and another that lightly touches on the possibility of merging artificial intelligence with humans by uploading minds to machines. Both read as afterthoughts to his central emphasis on how anthropogenic changes have impact on the biosphere. Tennesen is at his best when addressing the urgent environmental problems of today, particularly in his engaging discussion of water usage in New York City and Las Vegas. Overall, though, the book fails to come together satisfactorily.
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The author put an immense amount of research into this book, yet the text comes off interesting and digestible. Id definitely reccomend this book, regardless of your science background.
The Next Species
I finished this book yesterday and say how much I liked it. For the first time I felt I had an understanding of where I, and humankind, fit in the universe. Tennesen has an exceptional way of taking scientific fact and and making it interesting, relevant and understandable. Combining those attributes is no mean feat.
This takes The Sixth Extinction to the next level and if you read "Extinction" you definitely want to read "Species". It will surprise you with it's hopeful ending.