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The Diversity of Life (1992)

af Edward O. Wilson

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"In the Amazon Basin the greatest violence sometimes begins as a flicker of light beyond the horizon. There in the perfect bowl of the night sky, untouched by light from any human source, a thunderstorm sends its premonitory signal and begins a slow journey to the observer, who thinks: the world is about to change." Watching from the edge of the Brazilian rain forest, witness to the sort of violence nature visits upon its creatures, Edward O. Wilson reflects on the crucible of evolution, and so begins his remarkable account of how the living world became diverse and how humans are destroying that diversity. Wilson, internationally regarded as the dean of biodiversity studies, conducts us on a tour through time, traces the processes that create new species in bursts of adaptive radiation, and points out the cataclysmic events that have disrupted evolution and diminished global diversity over the past 600 million years. The five enormous natural blows to the planet (such as meteorite strikes and climatic changes) required 10 to 100 million years of evolutionary repair. The sixth great spasm of extinction on earth - caused this time entirely by humans - may be the one that breaks the crucible of life. Wilson identifies this crisis in countless ecosystems around the globe: coral reefs, grasslands, rain forests, and other natural habitats. Drawing on a variety of examples such as the decline of bird populations in the United States, the extinction of many species of freshwater fish in Africa and Asia, and the rapid disappearance of flora and fauna as the rain forests are cut down, he poignantly describes the death throes of the living worlds diversity - projected to decline as much as 20 percent by the year 2020. All evidence marshaled here resonates through Wilson's tightly reasoned call for a spirit of stewardship over the worlds biological wealth. He makes a plea for specific actions that will enhance rather than diminish not just diversity but the quality of life on earth. Cutting through the tangle of environmental issues that often obscure the real concern, Wilson maintains that the era of confrontation between forces for the preservation of nature and those for economic development is over; he convincingly drives home the point that both aims can, and must, be integrated. Unparalleled in its range and depth, Wilson's masterwork is essential reading for those who care about preserving the worlds biological variety and ensuring our planets health.… (mere)
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I'm not really into non-fiction, but had to try this for book club. There is no real narrative in the book, instead it is broken into a bunch of biodiversity topics.
Not recommended. ( )
  MXMLLN | Jan 12, 2024 |
The Diversity of Life is more or less The Short History of Time of evolutionary ecology and biological diversity but with a disturbing twist. The cosmos and its workings are hardly threatened by man while we're destroying earth's ecosystems and its biodiversity at an alarming and depressing rate (and this book was published in 1992). The science is fascinating, and perhaps no one's better at communicating it to non-specialists than Wilson. But it's hard to imagine an ending to the story that's not very bad, possibly catastrophic (even for human life, eventually). Some of Wilson's ideas about how to address the problems seem pretty unlikely, but none of them are sci-fi or poorly thought through, much less fantasy as with too many others' ideas to save the planet (Lester Brown comes to mind). Surely better understanding of ecology and biodiversity by many more people is a place to start, probably a necessity, and this may well be the best general audience book for that purpose.
( )
  garbagedump | Dec 9, 2022 |
A re-read of the wonderful Folio version after reading the original thirty years ago. At the time it was a clarion call of decisions to preserve the natural world as we knew it. Now it reads more like a funeral dirge of advice not taken. Things are not better, not okay, and we are all worse for it. The only saving grace that comes to mind is that speciation will again take hold as we exit the scene, having wasted our inheritance. ( )
1 stem kcshankd | Aug 10, 2021 |
It has been a good while since I read this book, a must read in any naturalist's study, and there are many reviews that give the potential reader an idea of its content. Thus here, I'm only opining about its significance.

Reading offers two paths in our journey through life. One is in strictly entertaining, even in escaping the troubling reality of our being, and the other is in broadening our horizons of reality in caring about the future — not only our future, but that of our progeny and our extended family of all physical life.

Such needn't be an either-or choice, as in combining there is to be found the mental balancing that enriches our individual umwelt. This book is an important read in paving our life path. ( )
  LGCullens | Jun 1, 2021 |
Lots of interesting examples of strange species, with an argument that shows not only how special each species is, known or unknown, but also how important it is to keep them all together within their ecosystems, essentially showing that each ecosystem is a living organism without which we humans will not survive. ( )
  WiebkeK | Jan 21, 2021 |
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Edward O. Wilsonprimær forfatteralle udgaverberegnet
Lakmaker, FiekeOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Pietiläinen, KimmoOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Ros, JoandomènecOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Sjöberg, FredrikOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Wright, Amy BartlettIllustratormedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
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In the Amazon Basin the greatest violence sometimes begins as a flicker of light beyond the horizon.
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"In the Amazon Basin the greatest violence sometimes begins as a flicker of light beyond the horizon. There in the perfect bowl of the night sky, untouched by light from any human source, a thunderstorm sends its premonitory signal and begins a slow journey to the observer, who thinks: the world is about to change." Watching from the edge of the Brazilian rain forest, witness to the sort of violence nature visits upon its creatures, Edward O. Wilson reflects on the crucible of evolution, and so begins his remarkable account of how the living world became diverse and how humans are destroying that diversity. Wilson, internationally regarded as the dean of biodiversity studies, conducts us on a tour through time, traces the processes that create new species in bursts of adaptive radiation, and points out the cataclysmic events that have disrupted evolution and diminished global diversity over the past 600 million years. The five enormous natural blows to the planet (such as meteorite strikes and climatic changes) required 10 to 100 million years of evolutionary repair. The sixth great spasm of extinction on earth - caused this time entirely by humans - may be the one that breaks the crucible of life. Wilson identifies this crisis in countless ecosystems around the globe: coral reefs, grasslands, rain forests, and other natural habitats. Drawing on a variety of examples such as the decline of bird populations in the United States, the extinction of many species of freshwater fish in Africa and Asia, and the rapid disappearance of flora and fauna as the rain forests are cut down, he poignantly describes the death throes of the living worlds diversity - projected to decline as much as 20 percent by the year 2020. All evidence marshaled here resonates through Wilson's tightly reasoned call for a spirit of stewardship over the worlds biological wealth. He makes a plea for specific actions that will enhance rather than diminish not just diversity but the quality of life on earth. Cutting through the tangle of environmental issues that often obscure the real concern, Wilson maintains that the era of confrontation between forces for the preservation of nature and those for economic development is over; he convincingly drives home the point that both aims can, and must, be integrated. Unparalleled in its range and depth, Wilson's masterwork is essential reading for those who care about preserving the worlds biological variety and ensuring our planets health.

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