In “Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future” (Crown), New Yorker magazine writer Elizabeth Kolbert examines the seemingly futile efforts we human beings must engage in to address our species’ depredation of the planet. That man should have dominion “over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth,” is a prophecy that has hardened into fact. Choose just about any metric you want and it tells the same story. People have, by now, directly transformed more than half the ice-free land on earth – some twenty-seven million square miles – and indirectly half of what remains. We have dammed or diverted most of the world’s major rivers. Our fertilizer plants and legume crops fix more nitrogen than all terrestrial ecosystems combined, and our planes, cars, and power stations emit about a hundred times more carbon dioxide than volcanoes do. We now routinely cause earthquakes. (A particularly damaging human-induced quake that shook Pawnee, Oklahoma, on the morning of September 3, 2016, was felt all the way in Des Moines.) In terms of sheer biomass, the numbers are stark-staring: today people outweigh wild mammals by a ratio of more than eight to one. Add in… Read full this story
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