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The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth's History

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  337 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
Global warming is contentious and difficult to measure, even among the majority of scientists who agree that it is taking place. Will temperatures rise by 2 C or 8 C over the next hundred years? Will sea levels rise by 2 or 30 feet? The only way that we can accurately answer questions like these is by looking into the distant past, for a comparison with the world long befo ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published February 22nd 2007)
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(showing 1-30)
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Lois Bujold
Oct 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: readers already grounded in botany looking for climate connections.
Recommended to Lois by: found on a "people who liked that other book you just read liked this" list.
Dratted Goodreads just ate my review... try again.

Well, hm. Not quite the book I was looking for.

This was more of a scattered grab-bag, which did include interesting recent news on plant and atmospheric science and some good history of scientists, but it lacked... cumulative narrative flow? The writing was good on a section-by-section basis, but putting it all together was more of a do-it-yourself project than I was quite on for.

I'd wanted something to give me a round-up of all that is currentl
Oct 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Oh earth you fox of a planet! If you have read Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis then you might enjoy this more orthodox account of the relationship between Earth's climate and the action of plants. It turns out those naughty plants have repeatedly kicked the planet out of climate equilibrium by monkeying around with atmospheric CO2 levels.

So basically, climate change will be just fine: During the Eocene climatic optimum there were no polar icecaps, and there were forests on Antarctica. In the short te
Jul 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: palaeontology, botany
Over all an excellent book. Beerling’s style of writing makes this book accessible to everyone. He is clear and concise which reminded me of the no nonsense approach of journal articles. In some places this means a humorous remark or observation reads awkwardly.
There were a couple of parts of the book that I felt deviated from plants for a little too long. The fact I was left thinking “Get on with the plant stuff already” is a credit to Beerling and his ability to draw the reader into a subject
Filipe Dias
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A subject I never gave much attention to, plants. They don't appear to share the thrill of learning about animals and so I guess that for most people they're no more than scenery, food or just the home for animals.
I used to see them like that, as 2nd class beings after animals, and so after watching the BBC series "How to grow a planet", very much based on this wonderful book, I was dumbstruck and had to know more.
The book itself is simple, not many details that would be too specific to understa
Martin Hayes
Mar 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Well written and accessible to the non-scientist, so long as you have a good general knowledge.
Mandy Haggith
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature
A really good, in-depth explanation of plant evolution and the impact plants have had on the planet.
Feb 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Accessible but still informative book, which covers a rather overshadowed group of organisms; plants. Lots of interesting insights into the plant world and the evolution of plants in general.
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I love reading about the evolution of plant life on earth — how plants have been influencing the global climate, the evolution of life in general and how plants themselves are a geological force of nature. It’s an excellent book. However, I could have done with a little less history of scientists, and I would have preferred a more coherent narrative style.
Jun 14, 2015 rated it liked it
This is something in between a history of plants on Earth, and a set of essays on that theme. It does start with the development of leaves, and then moves on to the plants' creation of massively high oxygen levels in the Carboniferous (the era of dragonflies with 5' wings) so the first two chapters felt like it would be a tour of plant evolution.

This is probably far too broad a topic, and in any event is not what we get. Nothing about the evolution of flowers or the period worldwide redwood fore
Last Ranger
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Climate Puzzle!

For me The Emerald Planet contained all the elements necessary for a good science book. One, it was written by a working scientist: Paleoclimatologist David Beerling who has published papers in some leading scientific journals as well as another book on this same general subject (but that one is priced way out of my budget). I found his writing to be readily accessible to the interested layman. Botany and its effect on the climate are the main theme but Beerling also touches o
Mar 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: environment, nature
This book felt like a collection of research papers, with a level of detail in a topic of each chapter that would only interest true specialists, i.e. other paleoclimatologists or paleobotanists. If you think modeling our current climate is complex, trying to figure out past climates and the factors that affected them is a yet higher level of complexity. The sheer number of variables involved - composition of atmospheric gases, layout of continents, ocean currents, amount of solar radiation, typ ...more
Nov 14, 2016 rated it did not like it
Se supone trata de la contribución de las plantas a lo largo de la evolución de la tierra, y es un tema al cual no se le presta atención pues lo primordial son los dinosaurios, la tierra en general y la humanidad, dejando a las plantas muy relegadas y creí este libro le daría su importancia.

Pero no fue así.

En su lugar tenemos capítulos enteros desperdiciados, entre comillas, ya sea introductorio, de repaso, sobre el calentamiento global, y hojas enteras donde explican la historia del oxígeno, oz
Sep 25, 2012 rated it liked it
While this is a very informative book, it wasn't quite what I expected and as a result I found I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I could have. I was expecting a book about how plants have evolved and how this has affected the planet's history and climate and while Beerling does cover this to a certain extent the main thrust of the book was more about the effects plants have had on everything else and how these discoveries were made. Don't get me wrong, this is very well written, well researched ...more
Aug 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
I found this fascinating as most books on the history of the planet focus on people or dinosaurs. This is not a history of plants per se, but more a discussion of what plant fossils tell us about the history of the atmosphere, although plant evolution is discussed along the way. It was interesting to learn that at one time the level of carbon dioxide was much higher and at another time the oxygen level was much higher. This is discussed in the context of our current global warming.
Minor complain
Daniel Hulmes
May 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
Giving this book a 2 star review feels a little harsh as it's very interesting in parts and covers a subject which is largely ignored by popular science. However, I just couldn't get into it. I expected a book on plant evolution but the book is more concerned with how plants have altered the earths atmosphere throughout geological time. It is therefore of more interest to Paleontologists and geologists than to a student of Biology such as myself.
Nicely written book that explores the changing physiology of plants and how this affects the climate in the past and possibly the future. I found this to be an extremely interesting book and learned a whole lot of new things which is the whole point to reading science books.

NOTE: Due to the large number of diagrams, it is probably better to read a print version of this book rather than an epub/mobi version since the diagrams are rather small on an e-reader.
Apr 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Beerling makes science interesting to read. He doesn't just state scientific facts, but instead describes the history and methods behind scientific discoveries. He does a good job of explaining "how" throughout the book, so it is appropriate that this word is in the title. For instance, ancient animals and plants were huge. But why? Beerling describes how scientists gathered information to answer this question.
Fred Dameron
Mar 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Very use full. Maybe we need to stop planting fast growing conifers and instead replant with slow growth broad leafs. Soak up more carbon but aren't as quick to grow and then get reharvested. Maybe Earths needs instead of Georgia Pacific should hold sway over how we replant after clear cutting?
Claudia Piña
Aunque no es un tema que suela buscar en libros, resultó muy interesante, en especial porque la historia de las plantas no suele verse como algo particularmente emocionante. Pero lo es. Al menos después de los primeros capítulos, que no son tan buenos y me costó mucho concentrarme en ellos.
Valerie Suwanseree
May 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Very well written but not quite what I expected. I am not that fascinated with the Earth's ancient history, although I probably should be
J.R. Ortiz
May 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Stephen Palmer
Feb 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Fascinating, erudite, readable. Highly recommended.
Oct 02, 2008 is currently reading it
Brilliant writing. This book changed how I saw the plant and mineral kingdoms. The writer is a sort of an Indiana Jones of the paleobotany community.
Daniel Hill
Oct 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: popular-science
Excellent account of what might at first glance seem quite an esoteric subject matter. Having read it you may look differently at the plants in the garden and especially the lawn!
Steve Mitchell
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's such a refreshing change to read a book on evolution that skims the animals and concentrates on the plants.
Apr 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: natural-history
watch out, its brainy.
rated it really liked it
Jan 14, 2013
Nov 14, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Worthy but dull.
Peyton Barnes
rated it really liked it
Nov 18, 2016
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“The great evolutionary biologist J B S Haldane (1892-1964), on being asked by a cleric what biology could say about the Creator, entertainingly replied, 'I'm really not sure, except that the Creator, if he exists, must have an inordinate fondness of beetles.” 0 likes
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