Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction

Doubleday. May 2013. 320p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780385535915. $26.95. SCI
Newitz (founding editor, presents a speculative work of popular science, posing some possible eventualities in the future history of Homo sapiens living on a planet that has faced numerous extinction-level asteroid impacts. She begins with an overview of past extinction events, e.g., the global ice age, megavolcanoes, that eliminated a majority of species, leaving only a small portion to scatter and adapt. She then looks at human evolution, exploring the theory that Homo sapiens may have dwindled to merely thousands about 100,000 years ago owing to stressful migration and climate change. She moves on to look at how we and other species have used the survival strategies of scattering, adapting, and remembering. As to potential future strategies, Newitz discusses the ways in which scientists are seeking to make cities sustainable. In the last part of the book, she considers leaving for other planets, much as when we left Africa for other environments. She reminds readers that remembering is crucial in order to pass on stories about survival.
VERDICT The overall message here is of hope rather than extinction. Recommended for fans of the study of extinction, fanciful evolutionary possibilities, and generally thinking outside the box where these subjects are concerned. Lay readers will find this accessible.

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