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The End of Nature

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  2,669 ratings  ·  146 reviews

Reissued on the tenth anniversary of its publication, this classic work on our environmental crisis features a new introduction by the author, reviewing both the progress and ground lost in the fight to save the earth.

This impassioned plea for radical and life-renewing change is today still considered a groundbreaking work in environmental studies. McKibben's argument that

Paperback, 195 pages
Published May 1st 2006 by Random House Trade (first published 1989)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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 ·  2,669 ratings  ·  146 reviews

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Dave Schaafsma
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: environment
I read parts of this book in 1989 when it came out, excerpted in various liberal and environmental magazines and in the NY Times. McKibben, one of the leading environmental writers of our time, wrote in The End of Nature a groundbreaking and powerful and angry book which I have now re-read in its entirety. Well, as you can guess from the title, it is not a hopeful little book about what you can do to contribute to saving the planet; it is, rather, a story documenting everything that happened bec ...more
Manuel Antão
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2006
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Trust the Science: "The End of Nature" by Bill McKibben

(original review, 2006)

"Climate is a Chaotic System
Chaotic Systems cannot be predicted
Climate, therefore, cannot be predicted.
The IPCC has stated this explicitly."

I've been hearing this almost since forever. But is it right?

Predicting a Chaotic System is BY DEFINITION impossible. Climate is a Chaotic System. Ensembles are used to try to mitigate the nature of a Chaotic System by ex
Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan
May 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who cares about the state of the earth
This book presents the sobering idea that there is no longer such as thing as nature, because humans have caused such massive changes by their presence and behaviors; that humans have altered everything (including all forms of plant and animal life) on earth. I read the book when it was first published in hardback form, and it made immediate sense to me, unfortunately. I’ll never be able to look at “nature” in exactly the same way as I did, although I can still enjoy what there is of it, and fee ...more
Jun 18, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: environment
The great problem with this book was the way it approaches nature--namely that he wants to leave humans out of it. He seems more angry that we exist as a part of the world than interested in thinking of productive ways of dealing with the the concerns regarding the environment that we are facing.
Oct 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
Dragged myself through this puppy. It was a tough go, but I somehow felt it was the environmentally responsible thing to do. Basically he makes the point very forcefully that we really have paved paradise. Damn. I recommend putting away all sharp objects and hiding anything that can be used to hang yourself before reading this book. Dead bird on cover says it all.
Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Read this one several years ago, but it's been much on my mind lately so I thought I'd put up my review. In 1988, a 19 year old me was living quite happily in a cloud of pot smoke in Orono, Maine. My roommate, a great guy we called Woody (because that's what he was) was waving a copy of this book around and explaining to me an idea he'd just learned about in one of his tree-hugger classes (he was a Forestry major) called 'the green house effect.' Apparently, Woody told me, mankind was releasing ...more
Firstly, I have to remark that I am an admirer of McKibben and his environmentalist work, particularly his participation as of late in stopping the Keystone XL pipeline. And the End of Nature does have some useful information and thought-provoking moments. I stand by and relate to McKibben's discussion of the inevitable hypocrisy of any modern-day environmentalist, the urgency of global warming, the disturbing possibilities that bio-engineering makes possible, the unfortunate dilemma of whether ...more
Carol Storm
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Makes a lot of important points, but I could do without the holier-than-thou attitude and the constant undercurrent of hysteria. Oh, and this guy name drops the wild animals he runs into in the woods the way Donald Trump name drops the lingerie models he slept with in the Eighties.
Aug 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature, next-project
This is not an easy book to read. It's not that it's dense or overly technical. In fact, it's admirably brief and succinct. Closer to a long essay than a full-fledged nonfiction book. It's the experience of reading it that's so tough. The context of McKibben's classic is key--it was written in 1989 by a young man (28). So it was both prophetic and ahead of its time, while also being the work of a writer who had not yet reached maturity. (This latter point is acknowledged by McKibben in the intro ...more
Apr 08, 2017 rated it liked it
This book holds a lot of truth and McKibben's argument is convincing and strong, and thus it may be the most depressing book I've ever read. ...more
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was a let-down. I know that Mckiben is an important thinker and leader when it comes to getting folks to acknowledge climate change and in moving folks to attempt to take action to address the causes of climate change. I am not sure what I would have thought about it had I read it twenty years ago, but reading it today, while I found the descriptions of the problems of climate change and certainly the idea of an “end of nature” compelling, I found McKibbin’s construction of the ways we ...more
Gemma Field
Starts off strong but quickly degenerates into reactionary hysteria. One extra star to Bill McKibben for making global climate change all about him
Ian Robertson
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Bill McKibben has become a force in the environmental movement through his writing and his leadership at the climate change advocacy and activism organization ‘’. His first book, The End of Nature, is an important call to action to combat climate change, and a natural successor to Rachel Carson’s seminal book, Silent Spring, which focused more narrowly on the impact of pesticides on the environment. McKibben’s book is, given the additional twenty years of environmental impact studies and ...more
Aurélien Thomas
We have by now pumped out so much toxic gases into the atmosphere that a significant increase in temperature and its effect upon 'Nature' is inevitable.


Published in 1990, this book is interesting for more than a reason. First, written at a time when climate change and its expected dramatic consequences were not as mediatised as now, you have to salute the author for its foresight: he here predicts all the toxic effects to come of our industrial societies; effects that we can clearly see all
Jan 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: enviro-ecology
A good book that clearly explains our understanding of the climate crisis in 1989. McKibben's thesis is that all natural phenomena, climate and the weather, have been tainted by the work of man and we no longer live in a completely unaltered natural state. It is also supposedly the first work that sought to explain the greenhouse effect and anthropogenic climate change to a general audience. I found it interesting to get an overview of what people at the time generally thought, what leaders thou ...more
Guy Barnhart
Jun 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Be prepared for an incredibly depressing read. This book was originally published in 1989, which was when I was a toddler. While many of the predictions in this book have come true, we're still finding out how much of an impact climate change will have on our planet, from increasing ocean acidity, to mega droughts and powerful hurricanes which are already exacerbating other issues. Obviously, this book will feel dated in some sections if you've been keeping up with the growing body of knowledge ...more
I follow Bill McKibben on twitter and much of what he says there is also said in this book. Except now it's 30 years later and almost nothing has changed. He says near the end: "The choice of doing nothing - of continuing to burn ever more oil and coal - is not a choice, in other words. It will lead us, if not straight to hell, then straight to a place with a similar temperature." That was published in 1989 and yet I still feel like that's true today. We're continuing to burn oil and coal and so ...more
Rashi Gupta
Jul 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book combines extraordinary level of scientific detail with hints of philosophy. It tries to make the man of 2005 see reason and the future of his actions detailing how one cannot postpone taking radical decisions in context of nature to their future gens.

Reading this book in 2020 hits differently - an year which is a constant reminder of wrath of nature with pandemic, wildfires, floods, droughts and what not. It allures me to imagine indigenous, unadulterated forests of the past and detai
Kyle Manley
Mar 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
An interesting point of view on the environmental crises we face/faced and even more interesting to read 30 years post-publish. McKibben argues his point that nature has ended, in the sense that there is no longer any natural aspect of our world that still exists without any human signature. For example, the most remote parts of the world now experience weather that is influenced by our greenhouse gas emissions, or by the anthropogenically increased acidity of rain. I disagreed with Bill at many ...more
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, rhc-book-club
2 stars. I’m sure someone who has an easier time with nonfiction might rate this higher than me, but this took so much conscious work for me to get through that I’m in the middle on it. The good things: it’s a topic that interests me, I feel much more informed about the details of climate change versus just having a vague idea of it, and I appreciated the various angles McKibben took to this topic. The less good: this book felt long (much lengthier than its actual length), and it was difficult n ...more
Sean Chick
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
A poetic and meandering meditation on the future of a world transformed by humanity, written before the really bad stuff happened. His thoughts on genetic engineering have not come to pass (yet) but the world he feared, one of runaway environmental destruction and climate change, has occurred. This book will likely be studied by the monks of the new dark age just peeking over the horizon. That said, knocked off a star for his romantic musings on raw nature that he sprinkles in the text. I get it ...more
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Still important reading, 30 years later.
Aug 10, 2009 rated it liked it
This long essay asks two questions: What would our lives be like if nature were not bigger than us? And what would it be like to imagine ourselves smaller?

The first question -- which takes up the first half of the book -- is fascinating. McKibben argues that a core part of what Nature does for us is let us know that the world has rhythms, predicability. That there is beauty out there that transcends us. It gives us a sense that there is something more than us out there. He has a very nice secti
This book was okay... McKibben's main thesis is that humans have done such a grand job dominating nature that it is no longer natural. Thanks to climate change, our weather is no longer due to nature, it's due to human activity, which is why the book is titled The End of Nature.

I think that Michael Pollan offers an interesting counter-argument to this idea in Second Nature A Gardener's Education, where he asks, what is nature when man has been playing around with it for so long? Is man truly dis
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: eco
"We are no longer able to think of ourselves as a species tossed about by larger forces--now we are those larger forces."

Originally published in 1989, The End of Nature mostly holds up. McKibben relies on the carbon dioxide measurements coming from Hawaii to demonstrate concern about a warming climate. The warmest years on record at the time were 1988, 1987, 1983, 1981, 1980, and 1986. Hansen appears, and after his testimony, McKibben notes that "the columnist George Will had spanked the then pr
Andrei Taylor
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
The end of nature is a enviromental awareness novel about the end of nature as we understand it. We have ended nature through our need for growth.

Bill shows that it is not nature itself that is ending but rather the nature that has been blossoming for years. Through genetic engineering we may be able to save our world, but this created world will lack the beauty of the old world. We will have trees and plants but these genetically modified versions of our trees and plants will not do justice to
May 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
Written in the late 80's, this is a disturbing book to read as we approach the second decade of the 21st century. Disturbing because so little of our dialogue about climate change has progressed beyond what was being discussed two decades ago. Doubly so because McKibbin's nightmare, that we might delay action for 20 or more years, is precisely the course we have chosen, and the consequences are sure to be all-the-more dire because of it.

Much of this book is dated now... The science, for certain
Marie Evanston
Sep 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was not what I was expecting. I was expecting it to be about the various ways humans are disrupting ecosystems, causing mass extinctions, polluting natural resources, and generally destroying the planet – the end of nature in this sense. There is some of this, certainly, but it’s not McKibbons main point. McKibbon defines “nature” in a different sense. (Thankfully, he makes this clear on page 5 of the text). He is talking about a certain idea of nature, a particular meaning which natur ...more
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nature
I gave this book a quick re-read after initially reading it for academic purposes years ago and being put off by the doomsday approach of McKibben. Even though I agree with McKibben in general, I don't like this book. It offers nothing but commentary. It leaves the human species out of the equation. Instead of motivating one to action, it takes the winds out of the sails.

Jun 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: science, ecology
Bill McKibben is more than a science writer: he is a poet. His descriptions of forests ravaged by acid rain are more deeply moving now than when this book was written ten years ago. He issued a clarion call that was taken up by many people, but still we are struggling with the issues presented in this book. If you have not read any of McKibben's other works, this is the place to start. ...more
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Bill McKibben is the author of Eaarth, The End of Nature, Deep Economy, Enough, Fight Global Warming Now, The Bill McKibben Reader, and numerous other books. He is the founder of the environmental organizations Step It Up and, and was among the first to warn of the dangers of global warming. In 2010 The Boston Globe called him "probably the nation's leading environmentalist," and Time maga ...more

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