The Human Age

human age cover image The Human Age

by Diane Ackerman
General Non-fiction
WW Norton & Co.
Hardcover, 352 pages
$27.95

Our typical response to books like this, which deal with the Anthopocene and the ultimate invasive species, is to nod and cluck our tongue in solidarity with yet another doomsday essay. Ackerman, however, despite sharing our assessment of the negative effects of homo sapiens on the planet, opts for optimism. She sees human innovation as a realistic hope for confronting the growing impacts that our species is having on our air, water and earth. “Our relationship with nature has changed…radically, irreversibly, but by no means all for the bad. Our new epoch is laced with invention. Our mistakes are legion," she says, “but our talent is immeasurable.” Chapter by chapter Ackerman takes us on a mission of discovery to explore this new reality in which we have "subdued 75 percent of the land surface, concocted a wizardry of industrial and medical marvels, strung lights all across the darkness." But, what about the downside? She dismisses it rather too quickly for our taste. “Laced with invention…our talent is immeasurable," indeed! Two and a half billion humans still lack access to a rudimentary latrine! In any event it’s worth reading.