In her new book Life as We Made It, biologist Beth Shapiro charts 50,000 years of humans meddling with nature and evolution.
Here, Shapiro picks her top five books about humans and nature.
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
It’s critical we understand the mess we’re making of the planet. I love how Kolbert carefully distinguishes today’s mass extinction event from the previous five, making it hard to argue that we’re not responsible for today’s crises: step one to figuring out what to do to stop them.
Half Earth by EO Wilson
I love and entirely disagree with this book. It beautifully summarises today’s biodiversity crisis and argues compellingly that we must, right now, do something. What Wilson proposes – setting aside 50 per cent of the planet and leaving nature alone – is impractical and won’t solve the problem, but the book is a must read.
Rambunctious Garden by Emma Marris
Marris’s anti-Half Earth argument points out the beauty in our landscapes that wouldn’t exist if we weren’t moving plants and animals around. We can’t set aside half of earth, so let’s make the best of what we have and learn to be better stewards of the rambunctious garden that is our planetary home.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
This novel made me love and appreciate trees. It made me sad but also happy and includes American chestnuts, which are on their way back thanks to biotechnology.