The Future of Life by Edward O. Wilson
It starts with a letter to Thoreau which I enjoyed—just having read a novel (March) in which Thoreau was a minor character. Wilson is a Harvard biologist whose academic focus is on tiny creatures and he goes to Walden Pond—as he evidently has many times—to formulate his message to American’s most famous spokesperson for the natural world—and to the rest of us. This book, written for the wider public, is not so much about Wilson’s work as about his love affair of nature and his confidence that global conservation problems can be solved if enough people understand and care.
Wilson is articulate—even elegant—and persuasive. He talks about how humans are uniquely adapted for the world we live in but how the majority of humans do not view environmentalism as a top priority. He thinks humans are innately hardwired to focus on relatively short term, not long term possibilities, on issues of staying alive, getting food, reproducing, prolonging life on the planet. But now, it is necessary not only to set short term goals for one’s own piece of the planet, but long terms goals to ensure that Earth as we know it survives. The current dilemma is reconciling the necessity of doing both, at least until we get through the bottleneck presented by crises brought about by the success of humans on this planet, crises like global warming and rapidly disappearing species.
Wilson ranges from huge ideas down to specifics about the yet undiscovered species that may become extinct before they are found and evaluated and pioneering programs of NGOs to pilot forest preservation projects in developing countries where otherwise the timber would shortly be sold off as timber.