Book review: The Fate of the Species by Fred Guterl

Publisher’s blurb:[1. Review copy provided by Bloomsbury USA]

The revelatory account of the biggest threats we face as a species–and what we can do to save ourselves.

In the history of planet earth, mass species extinctions have occurred five times, about once every 100 million years.

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A “sixth extinction” is known to be underway now, with over 200 species dying off every day. Not only that, but the cause of the sixth extinction is also the source of single biggest threat to human life: our own inventions.

What this bleak future will truly hold, though, is much in dispute. Will our immune systems be attacked by so-called super bugs, always evolving, and now more easily spread than ever? Will the disappearance of so many species cripple the biosphere? Will global warming transform itself into a runaway effect, destroying ecosystems across the planet?

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In this provocative book, Fred Guterl examines each of these scenarios, laying out the existing threats, and proffering the means to avoid them.

This book is more than a tour of an apocalyptic future; it is a political salvo, an antidote to well-intentioned but ultimately ineffectual thinking. Though it’s honorable enough to switch light bulbs and eat home-grown food, the scope of our problems, and the size of our population, is too great. And so, Guterl argues, we find ourselves in a trap: Technology got us into this mess, and it’s also the only thing that can help us survive it. Guterl vividly shows where our future is heading, and ultimately lights the route to safe harbor.

Note: This book is available from Amazon on May 22, 2012.

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This book. Oh, this book. It was deliciously pessimistic, looking at worst case scenarios for the possible fate of the human race. Many of them are rather bleak, which doesn’t really bode well for us–since, you know, it means that most of us will be wiped out when one of these “extinction events” occurs.

One of the points the book makes is that every few hundred million years or so, a mass extinction event occurs that rearranges the species hierarchy on the planet. The last big one was 65 million years ago, when the KT asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs. 65 million years ago. You know what that means, right?

Yep. We’re overdue for another one.

So how will it happen? Will it be a climate flip (the sudden–in geologic terms–flip of the climate, going from tropical to ice age or vice versa)? Will it be a bioengineered virus–maybe a designer bug that has the lethality of Ebola and the traveling ability of the flu? Will it be someone wiping out the power grid? A new, stealthy computer virus that no one can identify until it’s killed essential systems and programs?

These are some of the possibilities that the author examines. As I said, the book is deliciously pessimistic. I loved it. But then, I do like books that look at how the world could end.

If you’re also interested in reading about the possible ways we could kill ourselves off, I recommend this book.

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