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


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 helping nature grow and change. Human cities and mass agriculture have created new places for enterprising animals and plants to live, and our activities have stimulated evolutionary change in virtually every population of living species. Most remarkably, Thomas shows, humans may well have raised the rate at which new species are formed to the highest level in the history of our planet.

Drawing on the success stories of diverse species, from the ochre-colored comma butterfly to the New Zealand pukeko, Thomas overturns the accepted story of declining biodiversity on Earth. In so doing, he questions why we resist new forms of life, and why we see ourselves as unnatural. Ultimately, he suggests that if life on Earth can recover from the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs, it can survive the onslaughts of the technological age. This eye-opening book is a profound reexamination of the relationship between humanity and the natural world.

about Chris D. Thomas

  • Chris D. Thomas is a professor of conservation biology at the University of York, UK. A prolific writer, he has published 210 scientific journal articles, 29 book chapters, edited one academic book, and has written around 20 magazine and other popular articles since 2000. His works have been cited more than 26,000 times, making him one of the world's most influential ecologists, and his research has been covered on the front pages of the Guardian and Washington Post. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 2012, is a long-standing fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, and received Marsh Awards for Climate Change Research in 2011 and for Conservation Biology in 2004 and the prestigious British Ecological Society President's Medal in 2001.


"Chris Thomas takes the million-year view of today's
human-dominated world. The result is a thoughtful, provocative, and improbably
hopeful book."—Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction

"An immensely significant book. It is fluently written,
carefully thought through, ruthlessly argued, neatly illustrated with case
studies - and shockingly contrarian."—Matt Ridley, The Times (Book of the Week)

"His flowing narrative is rich in stories of his
fieldwork round the world ... Thomas's vision ... aspires to something nobler,
more optimistic."—Fred Pearce, New Scientist

"Fascinating ... Chris Thomas examines our human
relationships with nature, bad and good, and sets out a more hopeful truth to
current narratives and alarms ... This is a rich and timely tale, fearless too,
with examples and cases drawn from ecosystems across the world."—Professor Jules Pretty, Times Higher Education

"[A] thrilling and uplifting counter to the pessimism
of the Anthropocene."—Stuart Blackman, BBC Wildlife Magazine

"A decent and humane tale about the threat and promise
of biodiversity change."—James Lovelock, author of The Revenge of Gaia and A Rough Guide to the Future

"The most interesting / challenging / surprising thing
I've read about the natural world for years."—James Rebanks, author of The Shepherd's Life

"A provocative book that challenges us to look
positively at our human changes to the natural world and reimagine conservation
in the Anthropocene."—Gaia Vince, author of Adventures in the Anthropocene

"Chris Thomas takes the million-year view of today's
human-dominated world. The result is a thoughtful, provocative, and improbably
hopeful book."—Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction and Field Notes from a Catastrophe

"With a perspective that stretches many epochs into the
past and forward to the year One Million A.D., Thomas reframes Earth's current
ecological upheaval as a time of great creation as well as great loss. Without
minimizing or excusing the damage humans have done to the planet, Inheritors of
the Earth
opens our eyes to the splendid and fascinating ways nature is
adapting and evolving to the world we have made. He urges us to take our cue
from the majestic dynamism of nature and work with other species as they change
and move, rather than fighting an impossible battle to freeze the planet in
time. All change is not bad. I thought I was an optimist. Thomas is the real
ecological optimist."—Emma Marris, author of Rambunctious Garden

"With Inheritors of the Earth, Chris D. Thomas issues a
challenge to the conventional view of nature in decline. He urges us to embrace
the environmental changes we've set in motion, daring to suggest that human
activities will ultimately increase the diversity of life on Earth. A timely
and provocative read."—Thor Hanson, author of The Triumph of Seeds

other editions

  • eBook | ISBN 9781610397285
    Pub date: 09/05/2017 | Price: $16.99 / 21.99 Canada
    Publisher: PublicAffairs
    320 Pages
    NATURE / Ecosystems & Habitats / General
    SCIENCE / Environmental Science
  • Hardcover | ISBN 9781610397278
    Pub date: 09/05/2017 | Price: $28.00 / 36.50 Canada
    Publisher: PublicAffairs
    6.500 x 9.625 | 320 Pages
    NATURE / Ecosystems & Habitats / General
    SCIENCE / Environmental Science