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The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene (Pelican Books)

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  372 ratings  ·  60 reviews

Meteorites, methane, mega-volcanoes and now human beings; the old forces of nature that transformed Earth many millions of years ago are joined by another: us. Our actions have driven Earth into a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. For the first time in our home planet's 4.5-billion year history a single species is dictating Earth's future.

To some the Anthropocene sy

Kindle Edition, 443 pages
Published June 7th 2018 by Pelican
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Andrew Brennan
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book should be required reading in Secondary schools.
Z. J. Pandolfino
In 2018, the news media prioritized climate news more so than ever before. Now, every few weeks, major outlets run climate stories on the IPCC, warmer temperatures, pollution, carbon emissions, and natural disasters linked with environmental fluctuations. For the first time in this reader’s admittedly limited experience, climate catastrophe occupies a prominent place in public discourse; many people, it appears, now view the imminent climate crisis as one of the foremost, if not the most importa ...more
Sarah Clement
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthropocene
This is the most comprehensive book on how we robustly define the Anthropocene and identify when it started, using transparent, consistent criteria. It's written so that anyone can read it, scientist or not, and it really does take the reader on a step-by-step journey through understanding geologic time and how epochs are defined - including the political and subjective influences on something most people might have thought was purely evidence-based. I have read nearly every book on the Anthropo ...more
Holly Law
READ THIS BOOK. This book has answered so many questions for me, made so much sense of the world and our place in it, and more importantly given me hope to continue to join in the fight for an alternative mode of living.
May 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hmm, so, this was good in fits and bursts... and pretty not so great the rest of the time. My main issue is the fact it tries to cover too much, and glosses over most of it – the majority of which has been better dealt with elsewhere. For instance, there is literally an entire section that rehashes (with less nuance and efficiency) a chunk of Harari's 'Sapiens'. Likewise, there is a bit going over stuff covered in 'The Uninhabitable Earth' – which I'm still reading, and is far better expressed t ...more
Wiom biom
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the better part of the book, it felt like I was revisiting Homo Sapiens (Harari) but I think that points to the unavoidable links between anthropology and history — to understand our civilisation, we need to understand our history; to understand our history, we need to apply anthropological perspectives. And in The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene, Lewis and Maslin paint a satisfyingly comprehensive picture of our past, dotting our knowledge of history with the more niche ideas ...more
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a desperaty needed overview to the ecological history of our species. By knowing the past we can understand why this anthropocene age is an epoch never before seen in this planet.

'The Human Planet' is an excellent exsample on how to write popular and cross-disciplinary science book without giving up to presenting complex things in shallow way. Instead Lewis and Maslin provide us tour de force through natural sciences, history and critical social sciences. Everyone should read this!
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A compelling look at the influence of human beings on our planet. Some excellent data and images... The standout one is of a map of the 18th world created by digitising the data from shipping registers. Much interesting and material which should be a wake up call to us and our politicians. Overall a thought provoking read highly recommended.
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simply put, this is the most comprehensive and readable summary of the scientific Anthropocene debate as well as a monumentally large analysis of how "we" got to this point on planet earth. It is also, essentially and somewhat explicitly, the scientific case for communism.

Lewis and Maslin have been most well known as the advocates for placing the 'Golden Spike' - the beginning of the Anthropocene - in 1610. This is the approximate date of the Orbis Spike, a hemispheric afforestation after the d
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Even if I disagree with some of the solutions suggested herein, here's a book that gives a comprehensive outlook on what global warming is, and how humans have changed the face of Earth forever, for better or for worse.

What really enlightened me in this book are the disputes among geologists, and how they are acutely aware of the political implications of their work. Climate change is an immediate and pressing issue, and it is heartening that these concerns are being taken to heart. In any case
Jack Scott
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A truly great book.

Although the topic is fairly scientific and covers an area I have little knowledge in, Geology, the book gives a fantastic illustration of humanity's time and impact on the earth. The span and depth of the geological and anthropological insight was fascinating and I feel like my knowledge on the important subject of human impact on Earth has been hugely enriched.

Towards the end some of the points do start to grate a little, namely the complaints with geological society proce
Russell Chee
May 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is also sobering, though not in the way that The Uninhabitable Earth is - rather it's a reminder of just how humans have changed - some would say defiled - this planet. It's a look at the concept of the Anthropocene, or a formally designated geological epoch named after us.

First, the authors explore the history of the idea of the Anthropocene - I really enjoyed this! Who knew that nineteenth-century geologists were both more forward-thinking and more willing to acknowledge the human impact
Pete Hemingway
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating breakdown of Earths geological history and how human life will now shape what comes next.

Easily accessible science, but not Sapiens-level writing. Also a couple of thousand words longer than it needed to be - I felt - but enjoyable nonetheless.
Joseph Spuckler
Oct 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene by Simon L. Lewis and Mark A. Maslin is a detailed study of the history of the planet. Simon L. Lewis is Professor of Global Change Science at University College London and University of Leeds. An award-winning scientist, he has been described as having “one of the world's most influential scientific minds”. He has written for the Guardian and Foreign Policy magazine. Mark A. Maslin is Professor of Earth System Science at University College Londo ...more
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a treat. This book starts by chronicling how life has changed Earth geologically. Humans have been doing so initially unwittingly but then knowingly. If there are reasons to believe that human activities are leading to a long lasting irreversible shift in the Earth system and evolutionary trajectory that can be captured in future geological sediments and strata of rocks, then it is rational to crown the current epoch Anthropocene. The book details how humans, through the acquisition of culm ...more
Haur Bin Chua
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Geological evidence of human being’s impact on the environment that dated back well before the Industrial Revolution.

Since the existence of Homo Sapiens ~600000 - 700000 years ago, we have undergone 5 modes of living - i) hunter gatherer ii) agricultural iii) mercantile capitalism iv) industrial capitalism v) consumer capitalism. In each stage, there were measurable impact to our environment and some irreversible impacts. As early as hunter gatherer mode of living, human beings’ ability to crea
Nov 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nature-read
[Watch out - spoilers!]
Sometimes interesting but mostly pretty boring.

To be honest, I'm not really sure I got what this book was about. It started well with the question of whether humans have really created their own geological era, called the Anthropocene. But then the first chapter basically answered the question with a resounding yes - it turns out that humans have thought so for hundreds of years (query then why this is a popular debate today...). That was followed by a pretty dull explanat
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Human Planet chronicles the progress of mankind and the corresponding impacts on the environments by these innovations. Lewis and Maslin puts forth an argument as to the impacts that human activity have on the Earth system is significant enough to justify its own geological Epoch definition.

I am particularly impressed by how well supported their arguments are, with the multitude of footnotes littering the book with references.

The writers have not shied away from pointing their fingers at th
Lauren Schnoebelen
4.75 ⭐️

This was an excellent and detailed look at the history of human civilization and our impact on the environment. Trying to identify the best point in geologic time as the beginning of our impact is extremely difficult. This book provides well researched options for possible starting points while describing the process in how a new epoch is determined in geologic time. I would highly recommend this for anyone interested in a more general analysis of the climate change issue without diving f
Rosie K.
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Read for my IRG class, the Science, Technology, and the Environment track.

This book is so well-written in every way. The facts are presented without coddling the feelings of colonizers and imperial states. I can only hope my classmates actually do their reading and understand some of what's in this book, like the following quote from page 389:

“The West, as we have seen in earlier chapters, got rich by plundering the rest of the world, and used up most of the world’s global carbon budget. A third
May 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book touches upon a most relevant topic such as the history of our planet from the perspective of human impacts on its capacity to support us in the future. It resembles a bit Harari's Sapiens, but it is scientifically literate when it comes to our footprint on the planet, which makes it even more relevant than Sapiens in my view. I do have some criticism when it comes to 1. a certain angle the book uses to look at the history of capitalism and 2. to the fact that some of the solutions sugge ...more
Ashish Vinayak
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I stumbled upon this book by accident and picked it up because of its beautiful cover and interesting title. I did not expect it to be centered around geology, however I did find it extremely captivating to read about the subject. The authors do a really good job in explaining the basic aspects of geological time lines, and why they are relevant in the context of current events, particularly climate change. Several aspects of the book have been very shocking to me, even though I do understand a ...more
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was written for people like me — not very knowledgeable about science, history or politics but sensing that something isn’t right with this world. And knowing that there are people protecting the status quo because of money. And that everyone plays a role in the way the world will go. I get it now.

I read this book following Margaret Attwood’s MaddAddam trilogy and Richard Powers’s Overstory. What a mighty sequence... From imagining a world where human civilisation collapse
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I hovered between four and five stars for this: well-founded, accessible and clear (if a bit of a slog at times), but the last two chapters were fascinating but less - or so it seemed to me, a casual and non-learned reader - much lighter in touch than the other aspects considered. Perhaps that’s to be expected, given the speculative nature of them; but I confess that whilst it took me literally months of dipping in and out to finish this book, I’d have happily had the last chapter expanded to ex ...more
Monika Landy-Gyebnar
In case you only want to read one book, this should be that.
It's one of the most important books of the decade, with very up-to-date scientific results and with an easy to understand story of how we f*cked up the only planet in the universe where life is known to exist.
Although I'm a science writer and know most of the things mentioned about our impact on the planet still the aouthors could give a higher level of information with connecting these facts into a network of kind of self sustaining
Anna Hintsyak
Quite distinct topics, such as geology, human evolution, colonialism, industrial revolution, carbon taxing, and many others, covered in very accessible language. Even though, I was struggling a bit reading this book in the beginning, but after finally getting into the right mood for it, I was deeply enjoying every single page of it. A lot of terms which I came upon in the book were new for me, so I constantly had to google them, though this didn't ruin the gratifying experience from learning so ...more
Pajtim Ademi
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The ultimate purpose of the book is not just to educate on the history of these things, but to discuss where we go from here and how we might finally break out of the social, economic, and political constraints that are keeping us from acting in a sane manner to save our Earth home. You may read this book and weep, but you may also learn a lot from it and feel inspired to speak out for action before its too late. I hope this book gets the attention it deserves and will be widely read.

The book is
Jeremy Chang
May 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very comprehensively explains the impact that humans have had on the planet, pointing out important stages in human history that one might not have considered the implications of on our planet. I wasn’t too sure on the authors’ proposed solutions to limiting our future impact which I felt were way too idealistic and not thoroughly explained. I felt that they should have been omitted or have been explained in much more depth considering their restrictions as well. Nonetheless a very good argument ...more
Magdalena Payne
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Highly recommend this book.

(We were lucky enough to attend a talk by Mark Maslin at the Cheltenham Science Festival this year.)

The topic of defining the Anthropocene Epoch and seeking solutions to the inevitable trends of 'business as usual' is fascinating, petrifying and necessary.

We should all be thinking about this, discussing this, and making strategic choices to minimise our impact on the natural environment and cycles. BAU is simply unsustainable.
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very articulate and engaging portrait of humanity and how we have affected the Earth through the ages. Why our impact on the planet is reaching a crisis point and what would be needed to avoid that crisis. Climate change and other environmental crisis are the most important topics in the world today and this book helped me reach a better, more comprehensive understanding of the systems that drive those changes. I highly recommend it to everyone.
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“We have altered the Earth system physically and chemically through disrupting the global cycling of carbon, causing warming of the surface of the Earth and acidification of the oceans; and biologically, through species extinctions and the movement of many species to new locations. Of these myriad changes, summarized in Figure 8.1, some are being preserved in geological archives, including glacier ice and sediments accumulating on the ocean floor.” 2 likes
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