* The Human Age by Diane Ackerman


I did not enjoy The Human Age: The World Shaped By Us, and I’m still trying to understand why I disliked it so actively. First, it puts the human species at the center of the world, assigning a special era as shaped by us — which I think is a bit presumptuous. Second, it often presents a hand-wringing disaster scenario of our various depredations of the planet, unwarranted fear mongering if you ask me. Third, it seems to misunderstand, or at least misstate, the mechanisms of evolution. Cities do not create rats with larger brains. They can only cause rats with smaller brains to reproduce less successfully over time. And, finally, the various chapters are rather clumsily framed by the author’s not always relevant personal experiences.

Still, there are interesting stories of using backyard hockey rings as a measure of global warming, solar electricity power plants in Sweden (Sweden!), and snails that give birth to live babies with hard shells. Gives a whole new meaning to childbirth pain, doesn’t it?

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