The Future of Life

  • by Edward O. Wilson
  • Narrated by Ed Begley
  • 7 hrs and 10 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From one of the world's most influential scientists (and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author) comes his most timely and important book yet: an impassioned call for quick and decisive action to save Earth's biological heritage, and a plan to achieve that rescue.Today we understand that our world is infinitely richer than was ever previously guessed. Yet it is so ravaged by human activity that half its species could be gone by the end of the present century. These two contrasting truths - unexpected magnificence and underestimated peril - have become compellingly clear during the past two decades of research on biological diversity.In this dazzlingly intelligent and ultimately hopeful book, Wilson describes what treasures of the natural world we are about to lose forever - in many cases animals, insects, and plants we have only just discovered, and whose potential to nourish us, protect us, and cure our illnesses is immeasurable - and what we can do to save them. In the process, he explores the ethical and religious bases of the conservation movement and deflates the myth that environmental policy is antithetical to economic growth by illustrating how new methods of conservation can ensure long-term economic well-being.The Future of Life is a magisterial accomplishment: both a moving description of our biosphere and a guidebook for the protection of all its species, including humankind.

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What the Critics Say

"This book is wonderful." (AudioFile)
"Ed Begley, Jr.reads with both skill and knowledge, delivering technical vocabulary smoothly." (AudioFile)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A scientifically-grounded case for the environment

I've listened to Cousteau's "The Human, the Orchid and The Octopus" and Jane Goodall's "Reason for Hope" and just finished this one. To be brief, I think this one stands head-and-shoulders above the other two as a case for the environment and a roadmap for a sustainable way of live for humanity.

As an environmental educator, I appreciate Wilson's fact-based approach here in regards to both the problems and the solutions; Goodall and Cousteau both argued more from an emotional perspective that, to me, seemed a couple decades old.

I read books like this to better understand the issues we face but I personally need a healthy dose of hope and optimism to inspire me to keep up the fight. While this book goes into great detail about the problems we've created in modern, ancient and, yes, prehistoric times, it concludes with concrete examples of what's being done, and by whom, to assure the survival of present day wildlife and humans.

Begley definitely needed a pronunciation consultant (for numerous scientific terms as well as the writer Goethe whose name he pronounced "Goath," like a high school freshman!!) but, essentially, did a good job of reading with enough inflection and emotion to keep me from drifting off.

I found Wilson's writing to be top-notch. The opening letter to Thoreau was beautiful, in my opinion; one of the better pieces of nature writing I've read in recent years. I suppose if you're not already "green" in some measure, you might find the cases Wilson presents to be unrealistic or alarmist but, it seems to me, you probably just don't really want to hear the truth because this is based in the best facts modern biological science can present.

Thank you, E.O. Wilson, for a lifetime of science, leadership and conservation!
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- Lucas

A bit melodramatic

This book is not a scientific analysis of ecology, conservation biology, or of global warming. In fact, it's very much like a "position paper" for self-described "biocentrists", though this particular position paper has a reasonable amount of credible evidence to back it up. There are parts of this book that are quite melodramatic, such as the first chapter which is a "letter to Henry David Thoreau". I really could have done without that. E.O. Wilson is a good scientist, but not a very good writer---when he tries to be literary it comes off as overwrought. This is clearly an audiobook aimed at concerned laypeople who do not have much of a scientific background.

Nonetheless, there were a number of very good passages in the book and the information content in it is high. I enjoyed the narration for the most part, but Mr. Begley really needed to speak with a biologist prior to pronouncing a number of species names (e.g., Escherichia coli came out as "uh-sher'ika colee"; even if this is somehow correct latin (which I'm sure it isn't) it flies in the face of the tens of thousands of biologists who refer to it as "ess-sha-reekia cole-eye")). It isn't a huge gaff, but it's annoying like when people pronounce nuclear as nucular. Ain't no such thing as an atomic nuculeus. This echoes the sentiments of a reviewer below.

The editing was a bit uneven in a few spots; several takes were recorded at different levels and stitched together.

One reviewer mentioned that the book was "a 30 year old theme: nature good, humans bad", but I think this criticism is kind of shallow. The theme is "destruction of habitat bad, natural selection good". The only real content flaw in the book is that it spent too little time explaining *why* habitat destruction is bad. Unfortunately, that's the most important message!
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- Neil

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-16-2002
  • Publisher: Phoenix Books