Earth in human hands Shaping our planet's future

David Harry Grinspoon

Book - 2016

"A NASA astrobiologist outlines optimistic messages about humanity's future in the face of climate change, explaining how the human role in managing the planet's evolution is determining the course of life,"--NoveList.

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New York : Grand Central Publishing [2016]
First edition
Physical Description
xx, 522 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 481-502) and index.
Main Author
David Harry Grinspoon (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Now that climate scientists have established beyond a reasonable doubt that man-made greenhouse gases play a major role in global warming, it's becoming transparently obvious that we humans are effectively behind the wheel, driving Earth toward its ultimate fate, for good or ill. In the face of this stark reality, one question becomes equally clear: How do we as a species steer the planet in the right direction to save ourselves and our fellow creatures? An astrobiologist by training, as well as a frequent advisor to NASA on space exploration, Grinspoon is well-placed to provide a unique set of answers to this inquiry. In a work that's less an orderly guidebook than a series of thoughtful and fascinating discussions, Grinspoon uses his knowledge of planetary ecosystems and geological change to speculate on humankind's potential earthly influence over thousands of years, pointing out that Homo sapiens has faced extinction before. Although Grinspoon acknowledges the daunting challenges ahead, his message is ultimately an optimistic one, arguing that man's acute self-awareness and technological creativity will ultimately win out. Copyright 2016 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

With humans now consciously altering Earth's evolution, it's time to take the long view on what that really means. A NASA astrobiologist who knows how to talk about science to the masses (with a Carl Sagan Medal for Excellence in Public Communication to prove it), Grinspoon has spent his career studying planets in catastrophe and can give us a 10,000-year perspective on how to handle Earth's own evolutionary ups and downs. [Page 56]. (c) Copyright 2016 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Grinspoon (Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life) brings an astrobiologist's perspective to Earth's current environmental woes. Without downplaying the planetary havoc humans have wrought, including global warming and habitat destruction, Grinspoon focuses on the long-term health of Earth's ecosystems—meaning millions of years. He wonders whether humans will survive far enough into the future to have a lasting impact on life on Earth and throughout the cosmos. Grinspoon makes clear that while humans are not the first of Earth's species to radically alter the environment, we are the first to be able to reflect on our actions. He argues that intentionally or not, humans have become novice planetary engineers, changing the nature of biogeochemical and atmospheric cycles. If humans learn to take control of planetary systems, they can make conscious choices that benefit future life, including preventing future ice ages and protecting the planet from devastating meteor impacts. Though Grinspoon overplays the Gaia metaphor of Earth being an integrated and sentient being, he broadens the scope of his work dramatically by paying a great deal of attention to the search for intelligent life in the universe. This is an optimistic and informative take on the future of Earth and humankind. Agent: Eric Lupfer, WME.(Dec.) Copyright 2016 Publisher Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A NASA astrobiologist and award-winning writer outlines optimistic messages about humanity's future in the face of climate change, explaining how the human role in managing the planet's evolution is determining the course of life. 40,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A NASA astrobiologist outlines optimistic messages about humanity's future in the face of climate change, explaining how the human role in managing the planet's evolution is determining the course of life.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

NASA Astrobiologist and renowned scientist Dr. David Grinspoon brings readers an optimistic message about humanity's future in the face of climate change. For the first time in Earth's history, our planet is experiencing a confluence of rapidly accelerating changes prompted by one species: humans. Climate change is only the most visible of the modifications we've made--up until this point, inadvertently--to the planet. And our current behavior threatens not only our own future but that of countless other creatures. By comparing Earth's story to those of other planets, astrobiologist David Grinspoon shows what a strange and novel development it is for a species to evolve to build machines, and ultimately, global societies with world-shaping influence. Without minimizing the challenges of the next century, Grinspoon suggests that our present moment is not only one of peril, but also great potential, especially when viewed from a 10,000-year perspective. Our species has surmounted the threat of extinction before, thanks to our innate ingenuity and ability to adapt, and there's every reason to believe we can do so again. Our challenge now is to awaken to our role as a force of planetary change, and to grow into this task. We must become graceful planetary engineers, conscious shapers of our environment and caretakers of Earth's biosphere. This is a perspective that begs us to ask not just what future do we want to avoid, but what do we seek to build? What kind of world do we want? Are humans the worst thing or the best thing to ever happen to our planet? Today we stand at a pivotal juncture, and the answer will depend on the choices we make.