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Our species has amassed unprecedented knowledge of nature, which we have tried to use to seize control of life and bend the planet to our will. In A Natural History of the Future, biologist Rob Dunn argues that such efforts are futile. We may see ourselves as life’s overlords, but we are instead at its mercy. In the evolution of antibiotic resistance, the power of natural selection to create biodiversity, and even the surprising life of the London Underground, Dunn finds laws of life that no human activity can annul. When we create artificial islands of crops, dump toxic waste, or build communities, we provide new materials for old laws to shape. Life’s future flourishing is not in question. Ours is.
As ambitious as Edward Wilson’s Sociobiology and as timely as Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, A Natural History of the Future sets a new standard for understanding the diversity and destiny of life itself.