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Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  243 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Human activity has irreversibly changed the natural environment. But the news isn't all bad.
It's accepted wisdom today that human beings have permanently damaged the natural world, causing extinction, deforestation, pollution, and of course climate change. But in Inheritors of the Earth, biologist Chris Thomas shows that this obscures a more hopeful truth--we're also helpi
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by PublicAffairs
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3.99  · 
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 ·  243 ratings  ·  48 reviews

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Peter Tillman
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An important book. Dr. Thomas writes well, and is good at skewering the illogical "certainties" of certain conservation activists. He points out that all is not gloom and doom. Life is flexible, and successful species, well, *succeed*. Humans have profoundly altered ecosystems for at least the past 10,000 years. These changes are irreversible, but there are upsides. Such as civilization and science. And more (but different) biological diversity, with human aid.

Thomas demonstrates how rapidly evo
Lisa *OwlBeSatReading*
4 solid stars even though I have (temporarily) DNF'd @39%.

....'the story of life on Earth is one of never-ending change'...

Inheritors of the Earth will be moved to my 'started but pick up again later' shelf as I have the upmost respect for the unique way our ever-changing world is portrayed by ecologist, Chris D Thomas.

'Wherever in the world you are reading this book, you would once have been surrounded by an impressive array of staggeringly large animals'.

Never have I read a statement so though
Dec 18, 2017 rated it liked it
An interesting read - definitely worth reading for anyone interested in conservation. However, I don't agree with much of it, and I do think it risks undermining conservation efforts.

Firstly, part of Chris' argument is that alien species rarely cause local species to go extinct, and so in general the arrival of alien species increases local species richness and is therefore A Good Thing. While the first part of this is technically correct, I don't think it's a helpful thing to say. Local species
Peter Mcloughlin
We are living through the sixth great extinction event in the earth's history but that doesn't mean every species is going extinct. Just like some businesses can thrive through a major economic depression some species can thrive in a major extinction shock. This book explores life's winners in life's losing times. It also explores how certain species find new niches in an extinction environment.It also talks about humans and there trade and travel have restitched together an ecological Pangea as ...more
I want to thank the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for providing me a free copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Another great book on the expanded view of the so-called "sixth extinction", in the vain of The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions that I read earlier this year. I appreciate its clear-headed approach to understanding human impact on the modern ecosystem without the usual hyst
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Not an easy read. Sometimes it is wordy and the transitions wide which I think is a mistake in non-fiction as the narrower the focus the better. BUT, and this is the larger exception to that stricture- because this holds a wide subject matter re "ages of extinction" at its core, it's appropriate.

Common sense and practical applications examples of scientific observation reign. That's highly unusual because so much "consensus" now seems to arrive from a place of "we think" that should NEVER be a s
74th book for 2018.

This fascinating book explores what Nature really means in the Anthropocene.

Thomas argues that environmentalists need get beyond the idea of purity and think of dynamic ecosystems where creatures are constantly on the move, with some flourishing and others dying. Where hybridization and new mutations allow new species to evolve far faster than we are used to to take advantage of constantly changing environments. Not all species invasion is bad in Thomas's view. In fact it can
I found this a fascinating book, and one that has led me to reconsider some of my own attitudes. Any book that has that effect deserves a high rating.

Author Chris Thomas argues that environmentalists tend to focus exclusively on the negative side of any changes to the natural world brought about directly or indirectly by humans, such as the importation of new species or the creation of hybrid species. By contrast, his own view is that such developments produce gains as well as losses, and that i
Sarah Clement
This is a well-written, accessible book about how ecosystems are changing in the Anthropocene, but it offers a different take on the subject to what you may have read previously. I consider myself someone who is fairly open to the idea that ecosystems are always changing and that baselines are often arbitrary and unrealistic, and I have read several books along the same veins. But even I found myself resisting some of the ideas in the book. Perhaps deliberately controversial at times, this book ...more
Adam Orford
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: erg
Dr. Chris D. Thomas argues that humanity will probably cause a worldwide increase in biological diversity. He has published scholarly work on the underpinnings of this topic.* The idea goes that average local biological diversity is generally increasing even in the face of global species loss, because the species that are going extinct are geographically isolated while those that are not are expanding their ranges into previously uninhabited territory without displacing native species. So, a plo ...more
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is by far the most fascinating book I have read in a while. If you are a Darwinist and believe in natural selection, how on earth could you object to how humans are affecting our planet? You can't believe in "survival of the fittest" and then object to the possible endangerment of the lesser sage grouse. In other words, you can't have it both ways. Thomas doesn't come out and say this quite so plainly, but it is the inescapable conclusion of his work, which focuses on how life on earth is d ...more
Oct 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting book that takes a look at the not so doom-and-gloom effects of man's impact on the environment and the ever changing nature of the environment.

The author points out that man is part of nature and man's activities are no different from any other animal, we just use different means to accomplish out goals. He also points out that nature, evolution and the environment are dynamic and ever changing and that conservation efforts that assume nature is static are doomed to failu
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a totally brazen book which will (repetitively) instruct you to stop worrying and learn to love invasive species, hybridization, release of GMOs, global warming and other man-made changes, even as it claims to not be doing so. Man *is* nature. It gives one something to think about. I thought nature might eventually recover from humans, but this books argues that many species (not just rats) are arriving and thriving thanks to us.
Sep 14, 2018 rated it did not like it
This book is thoroughly anthropocentric as it embraces techno-optimism, where human actions sends perhaps more than half of terrestrial species extinct by the end of the century and enslaves billions of animals in intensive food production system. The great moral wrong of extinction (Cafaro & Primack 2014) is not recognized.
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This qualifies as a milestone book that has genuinely transformed my opinion and understanding of an important topic. The perspective the author provides deviates from conventional stances
of conservation efforts, I am thoroughly convinced by his view, and nothing is more interesting than different opinions! It's a delicate topic, and really requires reading the whole book to understand the author's perspective. There is also a tone of optimism that has become rare as awareness increases on the
Feb 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: environment
If you are ever in Los Angeles, visit the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. It is an oil deposit that rises to the surface of earth; all the lighter fractions of petroleum have evaporated, and only the tar remains. Animals have been getting stuck in it for thousands of years, dying and sinking into the tar, and the museum shows their reconstructed skeletons: the Columbian mammoth, the ground sloth, the dire wolf, an extinct bison larger than the modern bison, the giant short-faced bear, and more. All ...more
Stephen Hiltner
Mar 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
Thomas claims to be an optimist, but the book's prologue is extraordinarily pessimistic about any intentional action to spare nature the worst of our abuses. Check out this stirring call to inaction: "There is no point in taking on a never-ending fight with the inevitability of eventual failure." Think of any movement, whether it be civil rights or women's rights, or to sustain nature or democracy, and ask yourself if those are the words of an optimist. And where's the optimism in "come back in ...more
Genetic Cuckoo
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
*Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Inheritors of the Earth is a fantastic book. The look and feel of this book is wonderful, and the premise is surprisingly different and positive. At first, I was unconvinced, as nature readers are more familiar with the typical story of mass extinction caused my human development and change. But this book really made me think about the disappearance and creation of new species in a different and more logic
May 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: biology, science
The core message of the book is solid: don't be prejudiced against organisms that happen to be invasive species. Invasive species have a role to play in the future of ecological habitats around the world. Species mixing produces lots of new species through hybridization, etc. which is generally good for ecosystems.

But it also contains some repugnant messages. Reading it sometimes felt a little bit like watching Fox News. The author is clearly educated in the language of science. He can be eloque
George Christie
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Okay, every biology student should read this book, it's that thought provoking. That being said, the basic premise of the book, that spreading species across the globe will eventually end up creating vast numbers of new species, is more of an essay subject than a book, and I often felt he was simply using a slightly different example to say the same thing he'd said ten pages ago.

Thomas rightfully points out that size the first cells diverged in one at or another, species have always moved, they
Kian Williams
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well, this book certainly changed my view of nature in the anthropocene. Author Chris Thomas takes on several assumptions baked into modern environmentalism and conservation. He argues that human influence (mainly by spreading species to new lands), has not only already increased most local biodiversity, but that it will eventually increase worldwide biodiversity; that cross-breeding vulnerable species, genetically modifying them, or replacing them with hardier species is a better strategy than ...more
miha ha
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Zanimivo, do zdj sm razmišlov o človeškem vplivu na živalski rastlinski svet samo kako uničujemo okolje in izrivamo vrste... Knjiga pa ponudi še drugo stran, res niso vsi vplivi ljudi na naravo dobri, ampak presenetljivo velik vrst rastlin in živali ki uspevajo v novih "človeških" okoljih in razmerah ustvarjenih zarad našega posega v naravo. Vrste se selijo in mešajo hitreje kot kadarkoli.

Zanimivo gleda na to kako invazijske vrste niso škodljive, ampak preprosto uspešnejše od vrst ki naj bi jih
Dec 27, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biologie, wetenschap
Chris Thomas calls himself a professor in nature conservation. This is very ironic. In his book he reached a whole new level of anthropocentrism, in which he gives a license to do whatever you want, without caring about the consequences for nature. But let’s face it, even from an anthropocentric point of view, there are many reason to conserve nature.

In his book, Thomas underexposes these reasons. For instance:
-He implies that ecologists want nature to get back to the way things were in the past
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author makes the case that species extinction has been occurring forever in the natural world and that humans, and even proto-humans of the Stone Age, have been altering the environment as just another species on the planet pursuing its advantage. Of course, as the only conscious beings, we have a special impact and mandate to preserve the planet. But the author contends this should not mean that we can preserve the world in amber, that the past is necessarily better than the future, that "i ...more
Lauren Liebenberg
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Why is there not more hype about this book? It's audacious! By definition, most people who read it will have an interest in environmental issues and conservation and for us, it's message is highly controversial. I had put it on my reading list to force myself to read something that doesn't accord with my world view , but I still figured I'd be reading some Donald Chump-style crock of pseudo-science concocted at the corrupt nexus of money and power and peddled to the public in service of some fat ...more
David Anthony Sam
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Without being pollyannish or denying any of the damage climate change and habitat destruction are car=using and will cause, Chris Thomas presents a realistic and yet optimistic long view of the impact of humans on our planet. Change is constant and trying to preserve or resurrect a mythic Eden of ecological perfection is a waste of time and potentially harmful. Yes, we should preserve as much diversity of all species and habitats as possible, he writes. But we are part of nature, not separate fr ...more
Ailith Twinning
Feb 02, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2018

Learn something? No.
Well written? No.
Interesting content? No.
Well-constructed philosophy? No.
Bran Principle (facts are good for you)? Somewhat applicable.
Entertaining/funny? God no.
Likable author? No
Narration for audiobook? Par or below par.


Boring-ass book.

Note: The above is my attempt to explain why I rate this book so badly, without engaging the actual content, because the content itself is not deserving of visceral refutation, which a 1-star rating generally implies. B
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a very important book as it brings an evolved way of approaching questions of conservation and ecology to light. The author Chris D.Thomas, a professor of conservation biology at the University of York, a member of the Royal Society and recipient of the British Ecological Society's President's medal, lays out many examples of life forms moving and being moved all over the planet over the geologic past. His examples make it clear that we need to stop looking at animals and plants that are ...more
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Wonderfully droll, this book challenges the doom-and-gloom notion of humans’ effect on the natural world and argues we’re in a time of rapidly accelerating speciation. The author posits we should accept that change is inevitable and use that as the basis for advanced conservation strategies. A little long-winded at times, as Thomas relates example after example of increased speciation, but thought-provoking nevertheless.
Adam Shaeffer
The basic premise of this book is that the human impact on nature and biodiversity isn't *all* bad. Yes, we're in the process of causing another mass extinction, but we're also increasing diversity within ecosystems by transporting species to new places where they in turn are thriving. Certainly made me reconsider things, but it rings a bit like the classic Monty Python song, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life". Sure, things aren't *all* bad, but if the ship is still sinking . . .
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Chris Thomas is an ecologist and evolutionary biologist, interested in the dynamics of biological change in the Anthropocene. He works on the responses of species to climate change, habitat fragmentation, and biological invasions. He is interested in developing conservation strategies appropriate for a period of rapid environmental change. His research has concentrated on insects and insect-plant ...more
“New lineages of reef-diving mammal might be born.” 0 likes
“With this increased diversity at the base of the food chain, there are increased opportunities for insects and fungi and bacteria that did not initially accompany the plants to spread around the world.” 0 likes
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