Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Humans: A History

Celebrated on April 22 each year,Earth Day is an opportunity to foster respect for the environment, allowing us to reflect on our shared human history while seeking ways to reduce our carbon footprint in the future. This Earth Day, check out some of these fascinating books that provide insight about human history and our effects on the earth:

Sapiens: a brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

In this book, Dr. Yuval Noah Harari tackles literally the entire history of humankind—no small task!—and yet always seems to ask the right questions, the interesting questions, to make the human journey an exciting one. Originally published in Israel in 2011 and now available in English, this is the companion book to his series of free lectures available on Youtube.

While some of his ideas may stir controversy, Dr. Harari manages to be both informative and highly entertaining as he uncovers the secrets of human civilization, with the end result being a more complete understanding of our past and possible future.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies by Jared Diamond

This Pulitzer Prize-winning book asks hard-hitting questions about how things in human society came to be, arguing that one of the roots of inequality between human civilizations is due to the land itself: pure geographic luck in agricultural crop farming and animal domestication.

“In this ‘artful, informative, and delightful’ (William H. McNeill) book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion—as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war—and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, this book chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history.” publisher

The Sixth Extinction: an unnatural history by Elizabeth Kolbert

Another Pulitzer Prize-winner, this book presents heartbreaking scientific data in an accessible format to tell the story of how humans have affected the environment. The author shares firsthand accounts of her travels around the globe, as well as stories of past mass extinctions—and the “sixth extinction” Earth is currently facing.

“Provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy. It compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.” publisher

The Human Age: the world shaped by us by Diane Ackerman

In this book, the author offers insight as to how humans have become a global powerhouse by subduing or destroying the vast majority of Earth’s land and creatures, but still offers hope for the future if humans can learn to integrate with the natural world rather than seeking to overcome it. Using poignant examples of new technologies, she points out that while our mistakes are vast, so is our capacity for imagination and our ability to find creative solutions.

“In this landmark book, Ackerman confronts the unprecedented reality that one prodigiously intelligent and meddlesome creature, Homo sapiens, is now the dominant force shaping the future of planet Earth and takes her readers on an exhilarating journey through this new reality, introducing many of the people and ideas now creating—perhaps saving—our future and that of our fellow creatures.” publisher

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