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HALF-EARTH: Our Planet's Fight for Life
Bibliophile price: £4.50
Of all the ecological threats facing our planet, the one that has the potential to do the most irreparable damage, according to double Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward Wilson, is the loss of biodiversity. In Half-Earth he provides an enormously moving portrait of what we do as we clip first twigs then whole branches off life's family tree. He describes how our species, in the geological equivalent of a blink, have become rulers and architects of the planet. After the initial rise of man a relatively small number of species were lost to hunting, but it is the huge number that have been lost in the last 200 years since the industrial revolution which risks pushing life on Earth over the edge. He proposes a solution commensurate with the magnitude of the problem - dedicate fully one half of the Earth's surface to nature. Man is responsible for the extinction of most of the world's megafauna (animals over 10kg) and while the fate of these extinction "poster" species and their plant equivalents is important, it is the millions of invertebrate and microorganism species which form the foundations of Earth's ecosystems whose loss is much more deeply felt. The biosphere does not belong to us and its control is way outside our remit. Wilson shoots down the fallacious and flawed arguments that man can save or even revive species by breeding programs or cloning, yet Wilson is no resigned doom-monger. Suffused with an unrivalled understanding of the systems involved, from microscopic to global, Wilson's writing reverberates with an urgency offered by very few. 259pp, illus.

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