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Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  1,627 ratings  ·  314 reviews
In its 4.5 billion–year history, life on Earth has been almost erased at least half a dozen times: shattered by asteroid impacts, entombed in ice, smothered by methane, and torn apart by unfathomably powerful megavolcanoes. And we know that another global disaster is eventually headed our way. Can we survive it? How?

As a species, Homo sapiens is at a crossroads. Study of o
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Hardcover, 305 pages
Published May 14th 2013 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.51  · 
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Trish
Mar 07, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've thought long and hard about what to say about this book. As you can see from my rating, I wasn't overly thrilled. While the topic is quite fascinating, the author brought nothing new to the table. Then again, this could be someone else's first book of this kind and then it would all be "new".

The basic topic is that of humanity's continued existence and what we should do to ensure it. In order to be able to assess the options, one should also look at our species' and planet's past to see wha
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Scott
Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
Going on subject matter alone, Annalee Newitz's piece of nonfiction sounds like it would be great, a portrait of Earth's first five mass extinctions, a look at why we're probably in the midst of a sixth, and a guide to how we, humankind, can ultimately survive when other mighty, planet-ruling species could not. (SPOILER: by scattering, adapting, and remembering.) But Newitz, the editor of io9, can't pull it off. In fact, this is one of the very few books I've ever stopped reading once I've gotte ...more
Bradley
Mar 06, 2020 rated it liked it
I picked this up in heavy anticipation because I've already read two of her SF novels. I thought to myself, HEY! We're going to get some cool speculation and have it backed up by science... right?

Ah, well, a bit. At the end.

Instead, we mainly focus on well-established extinction events from the past, a slightly optimistic, slightly rose-tinted outlook at life on geological scales, and the basic insistence that extinction happens over a great scale of time. Colony collapses are recoverable, most
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Kate
Full Disclosure: I received a free galley from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review.

I want to mention the positive things about Scatter, Adapt, and Remember before I get to the problems with it. Here they are:

1. This is an awesome subject, that of future human evolution and radical approaches to sustaining human life on this planet and beyond. I was nominally interested in this type of futurism before reading SAR, but now I'm ready to attack the Canon.

2. Newitz is a great writer: li
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Wanda
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: earth histroy, anthropology, planning ahead
Scatter, Adapt, and Remember

I won this book via Goodreads First Reads. Thank you.

I totally enjoyed this book on so many levels. The book is divided into five sections. The first section starts out in ancient earth and covers the diverse ways earth has experienced mass extinctions. Thanks to tiny blue - green algae that knit itself together earth went through an oxygen apocalypse. The amateur geologist in me loved the first part. Besides covering biological and geological changes, part one also t
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Brian Clegg
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
I’m not a natural audience for books about surviving disasters (even though I wrote the Global Warming Survival Kit). I can’t stand disaster movies, because I can’t take the pragmatic ‘Oh well, some survive,’ viewpoint as I watch millions perish. So I thought that I would find this book, with its subtitle How Humans will survive a mass extinction somewhat unappetising – but I was wrong.

The Earth has gone through a number of mass extinctions, where a fair percentage of living species have been ki
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Gendou
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, futurism
This book reads a little bit like a High School essay. It has lose structure and less of a thesis than a message of hope in the face of calamity, written in an immature, less-than-serious tone. Annalee Newitz makes mass extinction is fun!

Topics range from mass extinctions of the past, to the present anthropogenic (man-made) mass extinction, to the future of humanity on other worlds.

Sometimes, the author's fun-girl tone was inappropriate, like making jokes about the end of human life. Other times
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First Second Books
All the most fun parts of mass extinctions throughout history – dinosaurs! volcanos! Neanderthals! – combined with the fun parts of what we can do to survive them in the future (the living biological cities are a favorite of mine).

Nonfiction doesn’t get much better than this.
Jaylia3
Jul 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Love post-apocalypse fiction? Here’s apocalyptic science made utterly fascinating and relatively hopeful--

How can humanity survive life-annihilating disasters like global warming, cyclical ice ages, cosmic radiation, mega-volcanoes, rampaging pathogens, and asteroid strikes? After talking with scientists, engineers, philosophers, historians, technicians and--as she puts it--sundry brainiacs, Annalee Newitz has a few suggestions. Since I inexplicably love novels, movies, and TV shows set in post
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Sheehan
Sep 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Considering that most of the books I read tend to focus on the very short immediate present and future, the much longer history of the planet Earth and it's multivariate surviving species against all odds was a refreshing change.

Newitz's focus is entirely optimistic investigation of how pre-human species survived the various major planetary upheavals, and how they are relevant and applicable to humanity's future in surviving any number of extinction level events. I learned a great deal about Ear
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John
May 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
How Humanity Will Survive Mass Extinctions and Other Calamities

Humanity has the potential of surviving calamities as dire as the next mass extinction. That is the hopeful message lurking behind science journalist - and founding editor of the science/science fiction website io9 – Annalee Newitz’s book “Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction”. Hers is a lively, rather engaging, look at mass extinctions and other notorious agents of mass mortality like famines and di
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Rachel Pollock
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Hope is in short supply these days but this book is a good source of comfort (even as it describes all the previous mass extinctions and stuff).
Mal Warwick
Jun 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Will the human race survive climate change?

Come what may, the human race is heading toward a fall.

As Berkeley Ph.D. Annalee Newitz writes, “the world has been almost completely destroyed at least half a dozen times already in Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history . . . Each of these disasters caused mass extinctions, during which more than 75 percent of the species on Earth died out. And yet every single time, living creatures carried on, adapting to survive under the harshest conditions.”

In Scatter,
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Wendy
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
When U.S. science journalist Annalee Newitz, founding editor of the science website io9.com, set out to write a book about the future of humanity, she expected to find the end was nigh.

Instead, her research led her to believe the opposite: that "humanity has a lot more than a fighting chance at making it for another million years."

The optimistic result is Scatter, Adapt, and Remember, a refreshing pop-science book that examines ways humans could prevail at Armageddon.

What does humanity's future
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Dan Barr
Mar 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
*note: This review is for an advanced, uncorrected proof*
Scatter, Adapt, and Remember is a book of both solid strengths and clear weaknesses. On the one hand it is a book about an important, and under-appreciated topic; the various potential apocalypses and how we, as a species, might survive or avoid them. On the other hand, as a book that should offer a wide range of scenarios and solutions, it left me wanting. This is especially true when Newitz broaches the subject of science-fiction, a genr
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Mike
Jun 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Even though not all topics are fully developed (why is the vision of only one science fiction writer discussed in any depth?) or directly relevant (what exactly does the migration of the grey whale have to do with survival of mankind again?), this book is a worthwhile read for no other reason than the sense of scale and scope that it imparts. We’re talking the Big Picture here, the planetary picture, and, for many, many reasons, that picture is always changing, always evolving. Some of these cha ...more
Doug
Oct 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
Covers a wide range of topics...too wide...from extinction history, evolution and early human migration to genetics, space colonization, terraforming, and on and on. Consequently, each of these potentially fascinating subjects is given short shrift and broad-brush generalizations, and I felt short-changed. In addition as a geologist and chemist, there are too many factual errors here with which I can comfortably cope, and way WAY to much emphasis on consensus (real or perceived) when there is no ...more
Emma Sea
Pretty good: a bit light on the science in places, but eminently readable. I found Newitz too optimistic when it came to human nature. We do not make rational decisions. It was surprising that she didn't address rising sea levels at all. Yes, an asteroid is in our planet's future, but coastal flooding is in the immediate future of many of us alive now. Arguably that's not an extinction event, but neither is disease, and she covered that.

Overall, 3.5 stars, rounded down.
Gronk
Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
The first half of the book I thoroughly enjoyed. I wasn't aware of some of the mass extinctions our planet has seen and it was fascinating. The second half of the book was a bore. I'm just not interested in how we might develop new technologies to get off the planet or upload our brains into cyberspace. Nor did I expect quite a bit of discussion of SF literature.
Nina
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A highly interesting and unusual collection of research, the results of interviews with a great variety of experts and a pinch of science fiction. It reaches from the beginnings of Earth and living organisms to scenarios in the far future. Even though this book is about catastrophic scenarios which threaten to kill us all, it actually inspires hope that we are going to survive in some way.
Wendy Wagner
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Full of positivity, this light book is a great comfort read. The information about previous mass extinctions and evolution was deftly handled, and the research always felt thorough and interesting. Sometimes the writing felt a bit forced, but overall, just the thing to ease my existential angst.
Jennifer
Jun 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, non-fiction
This was an impulse buy at the bookstore. The title and blurb promised me exactly the sort of book I was looking for at that moment: an optimistic account of how humanity will realize its destiny as starseed. This book didn't exactly deliver on that, but it did deliver a fair amount of interesting information along the way.

The book is divided into five parts, but thematically, I think it's really three: 1) A history of mass-extinctions and crisis points. 2) Stories of how life itself, and later,
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Patrick
Aug 18, 2013 rated it liked it
It's unfathomable how old the Earth is. My brain literally can't comprehend the magnitude of how long this planet has existed, and just how short a time our species has been part a part of it. Years ago, I saw a show on the History channel (or something) that explained that there were entire homo-species that came before us, lived, and died off that were around for thousands and thousands of years longer than homo sapiens have existed. That's crazy. Think about that for a second. You can't. It's ...more
Lianne Burwell
I'm a little conflicted in reviewing this books. I enjoyed it, and there was a lot of interesting information, but it was not the book that was promised.

Basically, the book says it wants to look at mass extinctions, are we in one, and what we can do to survive.

The first chunk of the book looks at past mass extinctions, what caused them, what died, and what survived (and why). Very interesting stuff. But when we hit recorded history, things swerve well off topic. The black death is interesting, a
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MaryJo
Oct 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I heard the author interviewed on NPR, and I was intrigued. This book is a little out of my usual range, partly because it is more natural science based. I learned a lot about previous mass extinctions, and how knowledge about them shapes some researchers' thinking. Also, much of the thinking about future mass extinction here assumes that technology can provide answers. It was interesting to hear about people who are trying to build an elevator that will take people out of the earth's atmosphere ...more
Jana
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways, 4-stars
If you want to know more about what Earth was up to before humans showed up (freezing into an ice ball, then slowly turning into a swampy mess of greenhouse gases, then back to ice, and back to gas, and so forth) or what humans might be able to do in order to survive the eventual gasification/iceification in the planet's future (sort out our silly shit like wars and human-induced water shortages, get to work on space travel, GTFO), read this book. Newitz's style is entertaining while still remai ...more
Wes
Jun 27, 2013 rated it liked it
I bought this book because I wanted to know "How Humans will survive a mass extinction"... what I got was a lot of anthropology history, climate history, ancient jewish history, some eco-urban pipe dreams, and then finally a small serving of what I showed up for in about the last eighth of the book.

While I found all the earth history very interesting and I learned quite a bit, I wanted to know about space and our future in it and I felt like this book was not weighted proportionately towards wha
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Andrew Martin
This more my fault than Hewitz's; is it fair to criticize a book for 'reading like a long blog post' when the front cover asserts the author's bona fides as a blogger? In my defense the blurbs had an endorsement from Charles Mann (this ruins his perfect track record).

If futurism as a genre is intellectually suspect, well, you can imagine that a futurism lit review is *real* problematic. Some pretty interesting climate science nuggets in here, though.
Stephanie
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
Felt more like fantasy than nonfiction. Not a page-turner, but not a whole lot of depth (or strong evidence-based conclusions) either. The most interesting part was learning about the five mass extinctions that have occurred so far in the earth's history.
Robert Morris
May 13, 2020 rated it liked it
What a fascinating book! It's well worth picking up for the wealth of information it provides. I think the book falls apart by the end, but the author's way of seeing the world alone is worth the price of admission.

This is a book about disaster. Not just disaster, apocalypse. As a science fiction nerd, I've spent a ton of time with these concepts. What Newitz brings to the topic is new. The author is shockingly optimistic about all of it. Asteroid hits, mass extinctions, pandemics, war, climate
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Annalee Newitz is an American journalist who covers the cultural impact of science and technology. They received a PhD in English and American Studies from UC Berkeley, and in 1997 published the widely cited book, White Trash: Race and Class in America. From 2004–2005 they were a policy analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They write for many periodicals from 'Popular Science' to 'Wired ...more

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37 likes · 23 comments
“Are we not witnessing a strange tableau of survival whenever a bird alights on the head of a crocodile, bringing together the evolutionary offspring of Triassic and Jurassic?” 3 likes
“As UC Berkeley economics professor Brad DeLong put it to me:

You get famine if the price of food spikes far beyond that of some people's means. This can be because food is short, objectively. This can be because the rich have bid the resources normally used to produce food away to other uses. You also get famine when the price of food is moderate if the incomes of large groups collapse.... In all of this, the lesson is that a properly functioning market does not seek to advance human happiness but rather to advance human wealth. What speaks in the market is money: purchasing power. If you have no money, you have no voice in the market. The market acts as if it does not know you exist and does not care whether you live or die.

DeLong describes a marketplace that leaves people to die - not out of malice , but out of indifference.”
2 likes
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