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

3.47  ·  Rating Details  ·  966 Ratings  ·  218 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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Scott
Jun 19, 2013 Scott 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
Wanda
Apr 13, 2013 Wanda rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: conspiracy theorists, LOL
Shelves: first-reads
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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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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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 Brian Clegg 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 Gendou 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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Dan Barr
Mar 25, 2013 Dan Barr 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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Patrick
Feb 27, 2014 Patrick 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
Jaylia3
Jul 05, 2013 Jaylia3 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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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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John
May 15, 2013 John 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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Wendy
May 25, 2013 Wendy 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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Sheehan
Sep 29, 2013 Sheehan 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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Mike
Jul 05, 2013 Mike 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
WolfBread
Jul 02, 2013 WolfBread 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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MaryJo
Oct 12, 2014 MaryJo 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
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.
Wileyacez
Mar 22, 2014 Wileyacez 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
Jana
May 27, 2014 Jana 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
Jennifer
May 25, 2014 Jennifer 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,
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Wayne McCoy
Mar 31, 2014 Wayne McCoy 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
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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
Mal Warwick
Jun 25, 2013 Mal Warwick rated it it was amazing
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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Mimi Wolske
Dec 20, 2013 Mimi Wolske 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
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Michael King
Jan 18, 2014 Michael King 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
Mike
Jan 11, 2014 Mike rated it liked it
In general, I liked this book. Some chapters do feel like they run on too long, while others feel like they breeze over an interesting topic. This is due to the book covering a wide range of topics, some of which might not personally interest you.

Because of how many topics are covered, the book doesn't go into much detail. I think of this book as a sort of crash course introduction to different fields of research - some of which I didn't even know existed. It is a good jumping-off point to begin
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Ian Rose
May 13, 2013 Ian Rose rated it liked it
This was a tough one to rate. On ideas and subject matter, definitely a 5. Execution and especially editing, more like a 2-3. In the end, as impressed as I was with the research and as much as I like Newitz as a writer, speaker, and science enthusiast, I was more disappointed. The author talked to a huge variety of scientists and engineers in a lot of different fields, and I felt like we hear so little from them. Ideas came quickly on top of each other, and that's great, but they seemed to each ...more
Miki Habryn
Jul 27, 2015 Miki Habryn rated it liked it
The historical treatment of extinctions and trends is solidly fascinating, but the future speculation is, necessarily, more hazy. It didn't change my ideas on our collective future chances, but it did augment dinner table conversation nicely.
Stuart Hodge
I really wanted to like this more than I did. it's a conceptually interesting look at mass extinctions and possible human response to the next one, but I found that the book was too unfocused- flitting from topic to topic helped cover a lot of ground, but it didn't really give some topics the weight they needed. I would have liked each chapter to be a few pages longer to really give all of the concepts more room to breathe, and I would have liked especially for the three title concepts - scatter ...more
Doubleday  Books
Aug 28, 2013 Doubleday Books rated it it was amazing
Charles Mann, author of 1491 said this: "As Walking Dead fans know, few things are more enjoyable than touring the apocalypse from the safety of your living room. Even as Scatter, Adapt, and Remember cheerfully reminds us that asteroid impacts, mega-volcanos and methane eruptions are certain to come, it suggests how humankind can survive and even thrive. Yes, Annalee Newitz promises, the world will end with a bang, but our species doesn't have to end with a whimper. Scatter, Adapt, and Remember ...more
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191888
Annalee Newitz is an American journalist who covers the cultural impact of science and technology. She 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 she was a policy analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She writes 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?” 2 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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