The Anthropocene Bookshelf: Working My Way Through Wilson

Anchorage 4/14/16 – I knew from reviews that Edward O. Wilson would attack Anthropocene thinking in his new book and I was anticipating a challenge to some of the ideas I have been working with, but I found myself in total agreement with him as I worked my way through the first eight chapters. After all, this is the guy who really discovered the hidden dimensions of biodiversity by going up into a rainforest tree, spreading a sheet out, and shaking the insects out of the branches into the sheet. Voila! There were all sorts of unknown species. In this book Wilson continues to make his case that humans have already caused one of the planet’s great extinctions. We are killing off large numbers of species, and some of them we didn’t even know existed.

Then comes Chapter 9 – “The Most Dangerous Worldview,” and the title is pretty indicative of Wilson’s attitude. For him, Anthropocene thinking is teetering on a slippery slope at grave risk of tumbling into technocracy and dominionism. I guess I agree with him that those are risks. But I am hoping that as I move through the book his arguments will develop into something stronger than what at this point appears to me to be the old straw man tactic. Hell, we all know how bad technocracy can be. Just look at GM crops, the over-use of antibiotics, biocides, irrigation dams, nuclear power, and much of the well intentioned thinking that got us into this albedo crisis in the first place. I am sure there are some Anthropocene thinkers who fall into the stereotype he is trying to set up here, but not the ones I know. They are a lot more thoughtful than that.

Well, I’m only halfway through the book, and I am sure I will continue to enjoy it. Wilson always opens gates to all sorts of wonderment that he has found in the natural world, and I expect he will make a stronger case for the worth of things that only Nature can do. And in parallel with this book I continue with Cole and Yung’s “Beyond Naturalness” and Marris’ “Rambunctious Garden.” Some would not see this as pleasure summer reading, but it works for me.


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