The Diversity of Life

The Diversity of Life

Book - 1999
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Norton Pub
"A superb blend of lyrical description, sweeping historical writing, lucid scientific explanation, and dire warnings. . . . The most important scientific book of the year." — Boston Globe
In this book a master scientist tells the story of how life on earth evolved. Edward O. Wilson eloquently describes how the species of the world became diverse and why that diversity is threatened today as never before. A great spasm of extinction — the disappearance of whole species — is occurring now, caused this time entirely by humans. Unlike the deterioration of the physical environment, which can be halted, the loss of biodiversity is a far more complex problem — and it is irreversible. Defining a new environmental ethic, Wilson explains why we must rescue whole ecosystems, not only individual species. He calls for an end to conservation versus development arguments, and he outlines the massive shift in priorities needed to address this challenge. No writer, no scientist, is more qualified than Edward O. Wilson to describe, as he does here, the grandeur of evolution and what is at stake. "Engaging and nontechnical prose. . . . Prodigious erudition. . . . Original and fascinating insights." — John Terborgh, New York Review of Books, front page review "Eloquent. . . . A profound and enduring contribution." — Alan Burdick, Audubon

Book News
This classic by the distinguished Harvard entomologist tells how life on earth evolved and became diverse, and now, how diversity and life are endangered by us, truly. While Wilson contributed a great deal to environmental ethics by calling for the preservation of whole ecosystems rather than individual species, his environmentalism appears too anthropocentric: "We should judge every scrap of biodiversity as priceless while we learn to use it and come to understand what it means to humanity." And: "Signals abound that the loss of life's diversity endangers not just the body but the spirit." This reprint of the 1992 Belknap Press publication contains a new foreword. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Blackwell North Amer
In this book a master scientist tells the great story of how life on earth evolved. Edward O. Wilson eloquently describes how the species of the world became diverse, and why the threat to this diversity today is beyond the scope of anything we have known before.

Publisher: New York : W. W. Norton, c1999
Edition: New ed
ISBN: 9780393319408
Characteristics: 424 p. : ill. (some col.), maps ; 24 cm


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Mar 06, 2018

A beautifully written and endlessly fascinating introduction to biodiversity. Wilson is a great writer and a brilliant scientist. One of the best books I have ever read on biodiversity.

Dec 19, 2012

I heard about this book and this author/scientist at roughly the same time (probably scientist first, then book, then author), but it was not my first E. O. Wilson book to read. Sometimes, when I hear too much about a book, it makes me want to read it less.

So, when I found myself amongst the impossibly tall stacks in the evolutionary biology section of Powells Books for the first time, E. O. Wilson's name immediately jumped out at me as familiar, as did the title The Diversity of Life, but I was not yet ready to read it. I chose instead Consilience, and found myself immediately enamored with Wilson's eloquence, and his ability to make science accessible without for a moment dumbing it down.

The Diversity of Life follows this pattern of eloquence, and I steamrolled my way through it far faster than I had expected. Toward the end, I felt a little as I did about Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, in the sense that Wilson wasn't telling me anything he hadn't already beaten to death over the first three quarters of the book. Despite the repetitive subject matter, Wilson's writing is still fascinating to read, and I look forward to my next Wilson book.

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