Terra

Our 100-Million-Year-Old Ecosystem--and the Threats That Now Put It at Risk

Michael Novacek

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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A paleontologist awakens us to the "extinction event" that human activity is bringing about today
 
The natural world as humans have always known it evolved close to 100 million years ago, with the appearance of flowering plants and pollinating insects during the age of the dinosaurs. Its tremendous history is now in danger of profound, catastrophic disruption. In Terra, a brilliant synthesis of evolutionary biology, paleontology, and modern environmental science, Michael Novacek shows how all three can help us understand and prevent what he (and others) call today’s “mass extinction event.”
 
Humanity’s use of land, our consumption, the pollution we create, and our contributions to global warming are causing this crisis. True, the fossil record of hundreds of millions of years reveals that wild and bounteous nature has always evolved not quietly but thunderously, as species arise, flourish, die off, and are replaced by new species. We learn from paleontology and archaeology that for 50,000 years, human hunting, mining, and agriculture have changed many localities, sometimes irrevocably. But today, Novacek insists, our behavior endangers the entire global ecosystem. And if we disregard—through ignorance, antipathy, or apathy—the theory of evolution that developed with our modern understanding of the Earth’s past, we not only impede enlightenment but threaten any practical strategy for our own survival.
 
The evolutionary future of the entire living planet depends on our understanding this.

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Book Excerpts

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TERRA
Part OneTHE WAY OF THE WORLDThere are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. 
-William Shakespeare, Hamlet1A CREATURE IN THE FORESTThe most precious things in the world may be the things we never see. Perhaps at this very moment in a rain-doused stand of pristine forest in the Truong Son Mountains in central Vietnam, one of the last and least explored wildernesses on Earth, a creature with long, slightly recurved horns is emerging from an undergrowth of bamboo, palms, and saplings in the shadow under the forest canopy.

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Reviews

Praise for Terra

"This beautifully written volume draws on a lifetime of experience with fossil organisms to place the challenges of the present in context.  Clearly written, and filled with wisdom and hope for the future, Terra should be read by everyone who cares about the future of our planet and wants to do something about it."    --Peter H. Raven,  President, Missouri Botanical Garden and George Engelmann Professor of Botany, Washington University in St. Louis

"This is a great read. Michael Novacek’s book vividly portrays the human folly and cavalier disregard for Terra, our only home, and he puts the environmental crisis in its most profound context. This is a masterful hundred-million-year biography of our unique planet of life—how it came to be, how it works."           —Thomas Lovejoy, President, The Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment

Terra is a much needed book on the human condition that could have been written only by a paleontologist with a thorough, field-based knowledge of evolutionary and environmental biology. Starting with the birth of Earth’s modern ecosystems, in the Age of Dinosaurs, Novacek explains how the living environment came together in a way that yielded humanity, and why our careless destruction of it is a profound and eternal loss.  —Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University

"Terra is one of the important books of our time—and it will change the way you think about the world around you. Novacek’s coup is that he not only brings the past to life but shows how it holds the keys to our future. The extraordinary breadth of his accomplishments as a scientist gives his book a powerful combination of authority, wit, and humanity. Reading Terra, it is hard not to feel humbled being a steward of a planet so ancient, wondrous, and fragile as our own."      —Neil Shubin, Provost, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago


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About the Author

Michael Novacek

Michael Novacek, senior vice-president and provost of science at the American Museum of Natural History, is the author of Time Traveler (FSG, 2002) and Dinosaurs of the Flaming Cliffs (1996). He lives in New York City.

Michael Novacek

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Available Formats and Book Details

Terra
Our 100-Million-Year-Old Ecosystem--and the Threats That Now Put It at Risk
Michael Novacek

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
November 2008
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781466821606
ISBN10: 1466821604
480 pages, Includes 63 Black-and-White Illustrations, Charts and Graphs, Notes and References, and an Index
$7.99

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Farrar, Straus and Giroux Paperbacks
November 2008
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780374531416
ISBN10: 0374531412
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 480 pages, Includes 63 Black-and-White Illustrations, Charts and Graphs, Notes and References, and an Index
$30.00
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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