Book Review: Mark Lynas ‘The God Species’
In his recent book, The God Species: How the planet can survive the age of humans, Mark Lynas, on the face of it, is communicating the concept of ‘Planetary Boundaries’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetary_boundaries). Elucidated by Johan Rockström (Stockholm Resilience Centre) and Will Steffen (Australian National University), along with respective teams of distinguished academics in Stockholm and Canberra, the concept centres on how humans are currently affecting the many interacting systems that life on earth depend on. Today there is no planet-level coordination for the consumption of finite resources; the disruption of food chains; the use of land; or the changes we make to the atmosphere, to name a handful. In the scientific community, the need for identification of, and subsequent responsive action to, the limits of how much any planetary system component can be abused is long past being a debate.
Lynas is, in the first instance, communicating the work of others on a silently growing danger that I would need some persuading not to consider the most significant we have ever fathomed. Further to this, however, he litters the book with mesmeric facts about the problems we face; the nature of the systems of the biosphere; and our biological history. These gems make the book a very satisfying read and have excellent context. Lynas’ most commendable achievement with the book is his commitment to logic; he posits many solutions to our problems that are logically correct, while being publicly unpopular. These include nuclear power, genetic engineering and financial markets similar to those used for the recent carbon credit scheme. His arguments defending these approaches are coherent and fascinating, as well as being optimistic – which he himself identifies as a notable and worthwhile trait amongst those writing on this topic.