Earth in Human Hands

Earth in Human Hands

Shaping Our Planet's Future

Book - 2016
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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.
Publisher: New York : Grand Central Publishing, ©2016.
ISBN: 9781455589128
Characteristics: xx, 522 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates :,colour illustrations ;,24 cm.


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Mar 11, 2017

This wide-ranging book is part science, part philosophy. It takes a long and broad view, into both the past and the future, of planetary and human history.

Mankind suddenly finds itself running a planet – a role neither anticipated nor sought – without knowing how it should be done. We’re at the controls but we’re not in control. This book examines how we got into this situation and where that leaves us now.

Climate change is the most obvious of the ways in which we have begun to alter our planet. Scientists are beginning to say that we have entered a new epoch in which the net activity of humans has become a powerful agent of geological change – the Anthropocene, the age of Humanity.

Grinspoon begins by describing the history of Earth and how and why life evolved here when it didn’t on neighbouring Mars and Venus. He then addresses climate change and other catastrophes currently being caused by human activity. He presents the latest scientific knowledge and speculation in the fields of planetology and astrobiology and discusses the rationale for naming the current epoch Anthropocene. He concludes that we are at a bottleneck. If humanity can develop the global wisdom and cooperation to make it through this century, we will likely then emerge as not just a technological society but one with a mature planetary intelligence. He optimistically names this state Terra Sapiens – Wise Earth. We can only hope this happens.

Along the way, there is a lengthy discussion about SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, reviewing the options for the search and the wisdom of undertaking it. This is followed by looking at the more controversial Active SETI (METI) which, in addition to passively searching for alien life, would involve sending messages to broadcast our presence.

Grinspoon’s conclusion is optimistic. He believes that humanity has the innate tools to make it through this bottleneck by building a global, cooperative, mature intelligence on Earth. We require only the will to do so and time is running out.

Although there is a certain amount of repetition, this is well written and very thought-provoking. It is an engaging and enjoyable read, often poetic in parts.

Dec 26, 2016

About to pen a climate fiction series subsequent to my climate novel Pinatubo II, and this book may influence the storyline outcome(s)--positive or negative.

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