Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

INHERITORS OF THE EARTH by Chris D Thomas

Allen Lane; £20 (hardback) Allen Lane; £20 (hardback)
13 Sep
2017
At its core, Thomas’ book is about a big hole he dug by his Yorkshire home

Three feet down, he found what many people could find under their gardens: a cross-section of historical soils from pasture, through cropland, forest and steppe, and finally the dark clay that would once have been the bottom of an Arctic lake.

His point? When it comes to the natural world, there is no normal baseline. ‘At least five completely different sets of animals and plants have lived here during this extremely short space of time,’ he says. ‘The biological world has been turned on its head repeatedly since the end of the last ice age.’ Ecosystems everywhere are now being turned on their head again in what scientists are forecasting to be a sixth major extinction.

Despite the positive title, Thomas is quick to establish that a possible extinction event is no good thing, merely that it will create opportunities for other species to flourish. Just as the last five mass extinctions resulted in a rapid increase in biodiversity (the meteorite that wiped out the dinosaurs left the floor open for mammals and birds), the impact of mankind is making both winners and losers out of the natural world. ‘I do not wish to downplay the losses,’ he writes, ‘particularly in regions where major new land clearances are taking place. More vertebrate animal species have disappeared than new ones have formed. Yet new hybrid animals as well as plants are coming into existence and populating the Earth at a faster rate than ever before… we should also applaud the gains.’

It is an unconventional argument – but one that brings a new, optimistic angle to the conservation debate.

Click here to purchase Inheritors of the Earth by Chris D Thomas via Amazon

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Books

by John Higgs • Weidenfeld & Nicolson • £20/£11 (hardback/eBook)

Books

by Lewis Dartnell • Bodley Head • £18.99 (hardback)

Books

by Richard Williams • Polity Books • £15.99 (paperback)

Books

by Nicholas Jubber • John Murray Press • £20 (hardback)

Books

by Rob Dunn • Basic Books • £22.99 (hardback)

Books

by Edward Davey • Unbound • £9.99 (paperback)

Exhibitions

From July 2019 to February 2020, the Oxford University Natural…

Books

by Stephen Smith • Polity Books • £15.99 (paperback)

Books

by David Barrie • Hodder & Stoughton • £25 (hardback)

Books

by Juliet Blaxland • Sandstone Press • £9.99 (paperback)

Books

by Bill McKibben • Wildfire • £20 (hardback)

Exhibitions

A new exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery flies forward 100…

Exhibitions

From 12 July through to 10 November, the Fondation Cartier…

Reviews

A relaxed podcast, in which actor David Oakes interviews professionals…

Exhibitions

Exploring ideas of identity, heritage and life after trauma, Bahith…

Books

by Alex Rogers • Wildfire • £20 (hardback)

Films

An ‘environmental thriller’ focusing on the lives of campaigners working…

Exhibitions

The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition is open to visitors…

Films

In this moving, sometimes harrowing film from director Anthony Woodley,…

Films

A brutal, hard-hitting coming-of-age tale that doesn’t hold its punches