It’s easy to be overwhelmed. There are so many moving parts, so much to keep track of – but we humans, having brought the planet this far, have demonstrated our ability to craft unintended change. Now, astrobiologist David Grinspoon says in his new book Earth in Human Hands: Shaping Our Planet’s Future, it’s our turn to take control and carry on with intended change – because, as his study of the planet Venus suggests, the end results of not doing so may well be terminal.
With Earth in Human Hands, Grinspoon looks outward, to the stars and the exoplanets, and then back, to the Earth. Make no mistake, this is a page-turning work of speculative non-fiction, offering readers the thrills of science fiction stories that are grounded in what we actually know at this moment. A huge part of that knowledge, as described by Grinspoon, involves the idea of “deep time” in order to help readers obtain the right perspective.
But that’s just the first of many fascinating stories that Grinspoon spins as he takes readers on speculative journeys to the past, the future, and even the present, informed by the latest science as well a strong engaging narrative voice. Grinspoon does particularly well with the Gaia hypothesis and the trickster-style researchers who originated it, weaving together the story of scientists and science to help us achieve and keep perspective. In this context, he discusses the plusses and minuses of geoengineering, as well as some of the proposed solutions to climate change.
Grinpsoon does not confine himself to the human race however. His sense of fun is infectious as he dives into contact with extra-terrestrial intelligences, and the potential for intelligent life on earth. After all, we’re on our way to the sixth of seventh mass-extinction, following in the footsteps, so to speak, of the microscopic life that brought about its own demise and created oxygen in life’s first go-round on Earth. If we blow ourselves up (and/)or kill off pretty much everything, then perhaps intelligent is not the best description for humanity.
The most enjoyable aspect of Earth in Human Hands is Grinspoon’s voice. He really has a talent for writing non-fiction that makes you want to turn the pages as fast as possible, mark them for future reference and read the book aloud to those around you. He can and does look at the terrifyingly difficult coming years with a clear eye – but this is in no way a depressing book. While he sees the difficulties with clarity, he also sees the opportunities as well. We may become mature, in spite of everything we have done.
When I spoke with David Grinspoon, and you can hear it easily, there is simply a sense that humans, having invented science, can invent everything else we need to succeed. You can follow this link to download our conversation or listen below.