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HUMAN AGE: The World Shaped by Us
Bibliophile price: £1.50
"Many of nature's doors have shivered open - human genome, stem cells, other earth-like planets". We humans are redefining our perception of the world around us and the world inside us, asking questions about what it means to be human. In spite of the threat of climate change and the challenge of devising safer ways to feed and fuel our civilisation, Ackerman is optimistic. She considers the implication of medical changes to the human body, including carbon blade legs, silicon retinas and computer screens worn over the eye. The magnolia tree in her garden provides a mini-history of our relationship with vegetation, from the tree's origin millions of years ago, its survival through ice ages, its popularity as an Aztec icon and finally its eventual migration to Europe in the 18th century. She regards it as akin to a domestic animal who lives in partnership with humanity, providing beauty and a memory of the wilderness. Ackerman considers that the myth of humans having driven animal life out of our cities is only partly true: in fact for some species the city provide crevices and cubbyholes to nest in, and garbage for food. Ackerman's name for this civilisation is Anthropocene, with humans far more dominant than at any other time in history but with a responsibility to develop new forms of partnership with the planet. "If you're lucky, you have someone in your life like Diane Ackerman: smart and capable, and successful in the world of grownups. But still brimming with the kind of infectious enthusiasm and wonder found generally only in children." - The Chicago Tribune. An inspiring read. UK edition, 344pp.

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