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The Future of Life

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  2,977 ratings  ·  218 reviews
A magisterial accomplishment: both a moving description of our biosphere and a guidebook for the protection of all its species, including humankind.

From one of the world's most influential scientists (and two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning author) comes his most timely and important book yet: an impassioned call for quick and decisive action to save Earth's biological heritag
Paperback, 220 pages
Published July 3rd 2003 by Abacus (first published 2002)
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Average rating 4.15  · 
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 ·  2,977 ratings  ·  218 reviews

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Ryan Moulton
Aug 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Skip the overwrought introduction if it turns you off. The motivational parts are a little weak. The rest of the book is fascinating and enlightening.

His major theses:

- The only way to preserve the remaining species on earth is to protect large contiguous areas of habitat.
- The wilderness is worth protecting, both economically and morally.
- With a small change in priorities, most of the remaining species can be protected at a reasonable cost.

Here are the most interesting facts I picked up from r
L.G. Cullens
Aug 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
After a fictive discussion with Thoreau to establish a mental framework for the material covered, the author begins by encapsulating the extent of biodiversity on Earth. Then he moves on to compare the economist versus the environmentalist perspectives of the value of biodiversity. All very logically with salient points, and an aspect expanded on in later material.

Within the material the author takes a balanced and hopeful approach, including with the evangelical culture. Quoted is the voice of
Feb 21, 2009 rated it did not like it
I picked up this book most interested in following the trail of bio-prospecting, hearing about some of the field's successes, some predictions for it’s future impact on medicine, pharmaceuticals, etc.

While I expected this book to be great, I was let down by the author's writing style and focus in some sections.

The entire first half of the book was disappointingly dedicated to convincing me that the preservation of bio-diversity is a noble cause. At the most, I expected a section focused on this
Lucas Miller
Jun 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
My Audible review:

I've listened to Cousteau's "The Human, the Orchid and The Octopus" and Jane Goodall's "Reason for Hope" and just finished this one. To be brief, I think this one stands head-and-shoulders above the other two as a case for the environment and a roadmap for a sustainable way of live for humanity. As an environmental educator, I appreciate Wilson's fact-based approach here in regards to both the problems and the solutions; Goodall and Cousteau both argued more from an emotional p
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-read-2013
For a book published in 2002, it is good to see how much that was written about has come to pass; improved understanding of the environment, a desire to think big in terms of conservation areas, and looking at the biodiversity of regions.

That said there are areas that have not progressed. Along with animal extinctions, loss of rainforest, and other environmental disasters that have happened around the world.

The solutions that he proposes in the final chapter are still valid, and any government s
SD Mittelsteadt
Feb 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A great book for those concered about the environment and the state of our natural world. Ed Wilson first made me ashamed to be a human being of this planet, then convinced me that we are smart enough, talented enough, and moral enough to not only do something to protect and preserve life on this planet, but possibly correct many of the wrongs from the past. These people are already hard at work and while the progress is slow, it is still progress.

The book is a bit academic at times; lots of sta
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
Since being very interested in the subject of environmental studies, it was a great pleasure for me to come across this book. Without any doubt I can claim, that one of its strength is deep love for nature.

Nevertheless, there was a number of views presented in the book, which I personally found disagreeable with the main pro-ecological idea of the work.

One of such controversial opinions expressed by the Author was the encouragement of families with no children. I am deeply concerned that the l
Oct 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
This was my first E.O. Wilson popular book (a sad admission for an ecologist, I know), but I'm so glad I finally took the plunge. Wilson's writing is superb. His fascination, intense love, and awe of the natural world shines through in elegant, pithy phrases and humorous descriptions and one-liners. This particular book takes the readers through the wonders of the teeming biodiversity of the world (big and charismatic to microscopic and mysterious) to the perils that diversity has faced and cont ...more
Jul 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Wilson explains how all ecosystems, even those populated by the minutest of species, are linked to all other ecosystems creating one super organism. This super organism surrounds Earth and provides not only equilibrium but services to humanity like water purification, climate regulation, soil enrichment and crop pollination. These services are worth an estimated/astronomical 33 trillion dollars per year.

He describes forces that can lead to the extinction of a species and argues that at current
Sheryl Smith
Mar 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: homeschoolers, high school students, liberals, environmentalists
Awesome, awesome book.

I am not what anyone would call a liberal. Neither am I a conservative.

I live outside those labels and live in the land of the spiritual, being aware of the connectedness of all things. (Without being Buddhist.)

It was to that part of my mind and soul this book resonated.

Liberals would thoroughly enjoy this read. Conservatives would enjoy lots of exclamations and expletives.

In my opinion, the author went above and beyond in his description of what is happening to the enviro
Mar 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-08
This is great info, enjoyable to read and worthwhile. It is often reminding me of The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, but explores a much more biological point of reference. It's incredibly factual and detailed about the flora and fauna of the planet and human impact. Wilson urges that because we have conscious choice, we have the option to curb our actions as humanity spreads and destroys at increasingly rapid rates. He encourages a long dormant desire in me to want for the better of the whole ...more
John Valentich
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wilson
Brilliant book for non-biologists about the wondrous intricacies of life on earth and where it's headed if humans don't quickly ramp up their learning curve about how they're about to destroy the tidy house of cards that represents modern "civilization." This book explains why humans are the most dangerous invasive species on earth. But unlike other invasives, they may bring about their own extinction during a relatively short residence in biosphere earth. ...more
Jan 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read book for anyone who breaths and would prefer for it not to be a lung full of cancerous soot and toxins. Inspirational and oddly optimistic in this age of knee-jerk "the sky is falling" pessimists...even though the sky may be falling...or at least filling up with human-made heat trapping gases. ...more
Dec 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Oh man are we in trouble. I wish someday I could know as much as Wilson and be as articulate and persuasive as he is. Even as he presents depressing fact after depressing fact, there remains an optimistic undertone. How can you spot thinkers like this in their youth and cling to their coattails?
Jul 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simply phenomenal - outlines a variety of environmental issues, why we should care about them and how we can fix it all.
Nov 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Ecology, sustainability of human endeavors, etc...
So far - Readable and eye opening.
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
The Future of Life was ‘required’ reading for incoming freshmen at BSC in 2003. It has been incredibly interesting revisiting this “call to arms” for environmental conservationism 15 years later - even more so with the issues recently with the EPA. E. O. Wilson is optimistic, tempered by realism and pragmatism, about what can be done to protect the biodiversity under threat from governmental, economic, and ideological choices of those in power. He also outlines some steps the individual can take ...more
Max Egyed
Jan 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
A damning argument with all the pieces to show how humans have become the apex predator, polluter, and parasite on Earth. Covering survival in the most basic life form to the role of biodiversity in complex ecosystems, humans have the knowledge and ability to reverse the trend of destroying Earth because of EO Wilson.
Melvin Marsh, M.S.
This is mostly a book about the problems of decreased biodiversity, so it's a very sad read. ...more
Márk Reif
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, smart
A beautifully written book by Edward O. Wilson in defense of nature and biodiversity, in it the author argues that the time has come we homo sapiens take responsibility for our actions and stop running amok letting other creatures live on this planet we both call home.

The book paints a less than flattering picture of humanity. Basically, imagine a sci-fi scenario in which the protagonists are locked in a closed space with some horrendous creature that hunts them for sport, food or just to elimin
Joseph Sverker
One cannot mistake Wilson almost evangelical zeal for the preservation of species. And I have no disagreements with his general motives, although it doesn't always make great reading. It is a little bit like sitting in on a sermon that trudge through the same point on and on again with slightly different angles. Wilson explains the situation well and he is also doing a good job to explain the basics of the taxonomical side of biology. Although, somehow, I don't get so very interested in it. Mayb ...more
Aug 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
The book opens with a letter to Thoreau, describing the current condition of the natural world through the lense of contemporary science, and from a conservationist's perspective. He warns of the dangerous path we are heading down if we maintain current levels of use of our resources with the expanding weath of developing countries, issues of poverty and above all, the damage to the biosphere that we have caused and will cause unless we make consciously moral choices to mold our use of the plane ...more
Hollis Fishelson-holstine
The focus of the book was on the preciousness of biodiversity and how to preserve it for the future. I LOVED the intro - a letter to Thoreau at Walden Pond. The book itself, while on a subject near and dear to my heart was a lot of detailed information about a subject of which I'm pretty well informed, so I found myself scanning most of it. I was most interested in the 'solutions' chapter at the end, but found it less than satisfying. The gist of his suggestions seemed to center on NGOs (non-gov ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
May 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read2010
I can't decide if Wilson's solution to the future of biological life on our planet is optimistic in a functional or naive way. This was recommended reading by Margaret Atwood after reading Oryx and Crake, and I like the idea of having a solution instead of allowing society to deteriorate into genetically-modified fueled social collapse, and encouraging biodiversity and the protection of our remaining resources, but until there is a direct link between funding to do these things and a benefit to ...more
Nov 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished
EO Wilson has an excellent grasp of the broad diversity of organisms that inhabit this planet. He also clearly understands the extent to which we have decimated these populations. This book is an excellent review of the biosphere, the extent of damage we have inflicted, the reasons why we should save it, and a very cost-effective solution to do so. This book is chock full of examples of the benefits that these organisms have provided to humanity, from cancer remedies to the air we breathe. I rea ...more
Dennis Littrell
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
A prescription offering hope

Famed biologist and godfather of sociobiology (and its current prodigy, evolutionary psychology), esteemed Harvard professor and one of the great scientists of our time, Edward O. Wilson outlines in this engaging but somewhat reserved book what is happening to the planet's biodiversity and what can be done about it.

The Prologue is a "letter" to Henry David Thoreau as Wilson seeks to establish a conservationist continuity between the author of Walden and ourselves. The
Aug 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Edward O. Wilson is an all-around fascinating person. No one is more knowledgeable on the subjects of biology, ecology, and nature in general. And he can write in a way that is readable, interesting, and enjoyable to non-experts in those fields (like me).

The Future of Life is Wilson's attempt to describe the beauty, intricacy, and importance of the rich biological diversity that mankind has been blessed with. Most importantly, it details exactly how fragile certain components of our biosphere ca
Mar 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm reading this book for the Biology & Society class that I'm taking. It delves deeply into the make up of the biosphere and the impact that we have had and are having on our planet. But it's not all doom and gloom as the author believes that we have not gone too far and that the planet is still salvageable as long as we make changes quick. Unfortunately, we won't be able to save all species but we can at least save enough to keep biodiversity going and ensure our survival as well.
Great read fo
Nov 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: natural-history
I believe this book should be required reading for anyone who plans to live on our planet. Wilson argues convincingly that global climate change is not the most important problem we face, but that it is only one contributing factor to the real crisis which is the collapse of biodiversity. I first came to hear of E.O. Wilson when he was promoting his book Creation. That book turned out to be mostly a rehash of the ideas which were much more eliquently expressed in The Future of Life.
Jul 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Information conveyed with the simplicity of a master. It's refreshing to hear someone discuss the state of the world in such depth without feeling like you're being clubbed over the head. E. O. Wilson is an O. G. when it comes to the environmental movement, but there's never a moment where he wangles this in front of our face. Just an extremely informed citizen deftly revealing the compass point of undeniable facts--and there's even a dose of optimism in there. ...more
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Edward Osborne Wilson, sometimes credited as E. O. Wilson, was an American biologist, researcher, theorist, and author. His biological specialty is myrmecology, a branch of entomology. A two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, Wilson is known for his career as a scientist, his advocacy for environmentalism, and his secular-humanist ideas pertaining to religious and ethical m ...more

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“Science and technology are what we can do; morality is what we agree we should or should not do.” 30 likes
“The race is now on between the technoscientific and scientific forces that are destroying the living environment and those that can be harnessed to save it. . . . If the race is won, humanity can emerge in far better condition than when it entered, and with most of the diversity of life still intact.” 17 likes
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