It's accepted wisdom today that human beings have irrevocably damaged the natural world. Throughout history we've introduced species and infectious diseases to foreign shores; hunted slow-moving (and slower-reproducing) mammals to extinction; and polluted previously pristine tracts of land. Now we are in the midst of the planet's sixth mass extinction event--for which we are the main culprit.
Yet as distinguished ecologist Chris D. Thomas argues, this gloomy narrative obscures a more hopeful truth. In Inheritors of the Earth, he tells the remarkable story of how nature is fighting back. He complicates the standard picture of today's ecological reality, revealing that we are actually witnessing the first stages of a new mass acceleration of ecological and evolutionary diversity. Urbanization and the mass cultivation of agriculture have created new places for enterprising animals and plants to live, and human modification of ecosystems has stimulated evolutionary change in virtually every population of every living species. Most remarkably, he shows, our actions may well have raised the rate at which new species are formed to the highest level ever in the history of our planet.
Drawing on the success stories of diverse species, from the chocolate colored comma butterfly in York to the scarlet-beaked, turkey-sized New Zealand takahe, Thomas overturns the accepted story of declining biodiversity on Earth. In so doing, he questions why we are so reluctant to embrace new forms of life, as well as why we see human activities as fundamentally unnatural. Ultimately, he suggests that if life on Earth can recover from the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs, it can survive the onslaughts, however violent, of a technological age.
Combining a naturalist's eye for wildlife with an ecologist's wide lens, Inheritors of the Earth offers an authoritative account of the Anthropocene present and future, a challenge to conventional views of almost everything we do that relates to our interaction with the environment, and an illuminating reexamination of the relationship between humanity and the natural world.
"Chris Thomas takes the million-year view of today's human-dominated world. The result is a thoughtful, provocative, and improbably hopeful book."--Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction and Field Notes from a Catastrophe "[A] thrilling and uplifting counter to the pessimism of the Anthropocene."--Stuart Blackman, BBC Wildlife Magazine "Fascinating ... Chris Thomas examines our human relationships with nature, bad and good, and sets out a more hopeful truth to current narratives and alarms ... This is a rich and timely tale, fearless too, with examples and cases drawn from ecosystems across the world."--Professor Jules Pretty, Times Higher Education "His flowing narrative is rich in stories of his fieldwork round the world ... Thomas's vision ... aspires to something nobler, more optimistic."--Fred Pearce, New Scientist "An immensely significant book. It is fluently written, carefully thought through, ruthlessly argued, neatly illustrated with case studies - and shockingly contrarian."--Matt Ridley, The Times (Book of the Week) "Inheritors of the Earth collects years of Thomas' field research, illuminating plant and animal species-notably one of his specialties, butterflies-flourishing all over the Earth. Thomas puts big ideas on display."--Nautilus Magazine "The inevitability (and pace) of global change demands the sort of fresh thinking that is found in Inheritors of the Earth."--Science Magazine "Thoughtfully argued, full of rich examples... This engaging, provocative and important book paints a refreshingly optimistic picture of life on Earth"--The Guardian "With Inheritors of the Earth, Chris D. Thomas issues a challenge to the conventional view of nature in decline. He urges us to embrace the environmental changes we've set in motion, daring to suggest that human activities will ultimately increase the diversity of life on Earth. A timely and provocative read."--Thor Hanson, author of The Triumph of Seeds "With a perspective that stretches many epochs into the past and forward to the year One Million A.D., Thomas reframes Earth's current ecological upheaval as a time of great creation as well as great loss. Without minimizing or excusing the damage humans have done to the planet, Inheritors of the Earth opens our eyes to the splendid and fascinating ways nature is adapting and evolving to the world we have made. He urges us to take our cue from the majestic dynamism of nature and work with other species as they change and move, rather than fighting an impossible battle to freeze the planet in time. All change is not bad. I thought I was an optimist. Thomas is the real ecological optimist."--Emma Marris, author of Rambunctious Garden "A provocative book that challenges us to look positively at our human changes to the natural world and reimagine conservation in the Anthropocene."--Gaia Vince, author of Adventures in the Anthropocene "The most interesting / challenging / surprising thing I've read about the natural world for years."--James Rebanks, author of The Shepherd's Life "A decent and humane tale about the threat and promise of biodiversity change."--James Lovelock, author of The Revenge of Gaia and A Rough Guide to the Future