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

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  1,299 Ratings  ·  264 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
Hardcover, 305 pages
Published May 14th 2013 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2013)
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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
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
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: conspiracy theorists, LOL
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
When U.S. science journalist Annalee Newitz, founding editor of the science website, 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
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
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
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
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
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.
Jun 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, owned
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,
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
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
Apr 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-stars, giveaways
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
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
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.
Debbie Notkin
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book about how humans may end up dealing with the next mass extinction not too long after it was published. I had heard the author say that researching and writing it made her less pessimistic and more hopeful about the future, which got me curious.

I liked the way it builds from the prehistoric past to current time and the way she covers all kinds of approaches to the future. A friend at the time said that it was structured like a TV show: each chapter begins with a description of a
Ashikur RaHman
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Till now there have been five mass extinction events throughout Earth's history. Last one was approximately 65-70 million years ago . Last one wiped out dinosaurs . Many scientists warn that earths sixth extinction event underway. About 70-90% of terrestrial and marine life worldwide were exterminated in each event. This book is about what we need to do to survive next one.
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,
Mimi Wolske
Dec 20, 2013 rated it liked it
DID YOU KNOW Crows are among the planet's most intelligent animals, teaching their young to use tools for foraging and banding together to fight off intruders? It's true.

COULD two dramatically different species might have similar abstract reasoning abilities — even if their brains are completely unlike each other?

The book "Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction" by Annalee Newitz is brilliant and almost sci-fi in its speculative work of popular science focuses on
Wayne McCoy
Apr 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction tackles a very huge subject. It's a big ambitious subject. I'm not sure the entire subject can be covered adequately in a single 320 page book, but author Annalee Newitz gives it a good shot.

The book is about the history of mass extinctions on our planet over a 4.5 billion year history. There have been dust storms, ice, gas clouds and volcanoes that have attempted to eradicate life on earth. This is the setup for the book. A
Mar 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book! I thought that the author did an amazing job of synthesizing a lot of scientific research on the geological history of the eart and the evolutionary history of humans in a very readable format. The final portion, which even she acknowledged was perhaps more fiction than science since getting off of this planet and creating communities on other planets/moons was still at that phase. The best thing about the book was the positive slant. While another life-threatening catastrophic event, ...more
Anita Sosinka
A very uplighting and uplifting position. Nevermind if we'll actually really survive the next mass species extinction (depends how soon - talking here about hundreds of thousands years - it'll happen) but the ones that happened already on Earth are described in a wonderful manner! Really! Vivid style and selection of facts/hypothesis makes it a real page turner. It's not a hard academic script, rather a consecutive chain of essays on Earth roughly 4.5 bln-year history through the 6 or 7 mass ext ...more
Tim OBrien
Mar 03, 2015 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed the first parts of this book. She gave a good account of previous mass extinctions. And the chapter on the evolution, and near extinction of the human line was fascinating. The stories about how other species survived by scattering, adapting, and remembering were instructive. But the last part of the book, outlining some of the specific strategies that human might use to survive, was less interesting to me. But it might different for others. At one point Newitz says "...stories ...more
Michael King
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very thought-provoking topic. The author takes you through a history of the Earth's mass extinctions, putting the evolution of the planet's current inhabitants into perspective. Extinctions are an intrinsic part of evolution and life on the planet, and the author's point is that if we as a species would like to survive into the distant future then we need to consider this fact and be prepared for it. Each chapter of the book was very interesting and could easily have been expanded into a book of ...more
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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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“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?” 4 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.”
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