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Terra: Our 100-Million-Year-Old Ecosystem--And the Threats That Now Put It at Risk
by Michael J. Novacek

AVAILABILITY: Active Record (Readily Available)

Publication Date: November 2007
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Binding: Trade Cloth
Condition: Close-Out


A paleontologist awakens us to the "extinction event" that human activity is bringing about today The natural world as humans have always known it evolved close to 100 million years ago, with the appearance of flowering plants and pollinating insects during the age of the dinosaurs. Its tremendous history is now in danger of profound, catastrophic disruption. In Terra, a brilliant synthesis of evolutionary biology, paleontology, and modern environmental science, Michael Novacek shows how all three can help us understand and prevent what he (and others) call today’s “mass extinction event.”  Humanity’s use of land, our consumption, the pollution we create, and our contributions to global warming are causing this crisis. True, the fossil record of hundreds of millions of years reveals that wild and bounteous nature has always evolved not quietly but thunderously, as species arise, flourish, die off, and are replaced by new species. We learn from paleontology and archaeology that for 50,000 years, human hunting, mining, and agriculture have changed many localities, sometimes irrevocably. But today, Novacek insists, our behavior endangers the entire global ecosystem. And if we disregard—through ignorance, antipathy, or apathy—the theory of evolution that developed with our modern understanding of the Earth’s past, we not only impede enlightenment but threaten any practical strategy for our own survival.  The evolutionary future of the entire living planet depends on our understanding this.


"Paleontologist Novacek (Time Traveler) tells the story of our ecosystem and warns that humans are transforming it so drastically that it may not be habitable in the future. Discussing the evolutionary processes that led to the diversification of all life, he asserts that people who reject the theory of evolution impede efforts to preserve the ecosystem because they ignore the importance of biological diversity. To demonstrate biodiversity's crucial role, he considers the evolution of flowering plants and the myriad insect species that pollinate them, stressing that as we decimate these insect populations, we interfere with 'the very core of what has been built by evolution.' Extinction is normal during the course of evolution, but studies cited by the author show that every year tens of thousands of species may now be going extinct, thousands of times faster than they would naturally do so, as humans exploit the ecosystem by cutting forests, exhausting sources of fresh water, polluting the air, destroying habitats, depleting the ocean and introducing invasive species to new habitats. We can avoid this, Novacek contends, if we learn to appreciate the history of our ecosystem in all its beauty and complexity, and have the will to reverse our destructive course. His timely book, with its wealth of lucidly presented information, should go a long way toward promoting this appreciation." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Book News Annotation:

Writing for a general audience, paleontologist Novacek (Vice

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