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A Book for all Seasons

Marlene Taschen reveals her personal story behind The Earth and I

Human beings tend towards business as usual. Our heads filled with daily concerns, we rarely stop to consider the real consequences of our way of life. For me one of those rare moments of reflection arose a few months into motherhood when I read James Lovelock’s Revenge of Gaia. Full of protective instincts, I was struck by an awareness of the fragility of our lives. James’s words caused worry at first, but then, more importantly, they made me feel the responsibility we all have to leave a habitable planet to the next generations.

This book was inspired by James’s idea of creating “A Book for All Seasons,” a book that would gather essential knowledge about the intricacies of our Earth and our human species, a manual that could help some future fortunate (or unfortunate) survivors to navigate their surroundings and avoid repeating the mistakes of previous civilizations. Even without a catastrophic scenario, James’s vision for a landmark book of scientific learning, which reaches across disciplines and engages audiences of different ages and abilities, seems both timely and important.

Led by James’s initial concept, the book has since evolved through the contributions of many brilliant minds (and hands) that came together to share their expertise, and to give the reader a set of tools to think about their place on the planet. Zooming in from our ever-expanding universe to our miniscule but mighty cells, we travel back out again from the mechanisms of our brains to the history, inventions, and ideas that made us the societal animal we are today. Chapter by chapter, The Earth and I emerges as a wholesome account of the Earth and our existence — an account that is not black or white, but full of facets and shades, that is alive with ideas and opinions as well as scientific understanding. It is to be considered as much as a stimulus for curious minds and a sourcebook for fresh perspectives, as a collection of essential knowledge. It should empower us to make more thoughtful decisions.

The complexity of the global human-made problems we face, like overpopulation and consumption, loss of biodiversity, climate change, along with uncontrollable natural disasters, can quite easily make us feel overwhelmed and helpless. Yet a balanced view between human responsibility and potential is also important to this book. It is crucial to remember that we have the capacity to learn from our missteps and to turn things around if we use the crazy inventiveness of the human mind and the incredible power that comes with it in a considerate and caring way. We need to realize that though our future is not set in stone, we are laying the foundations for it right now. Instead of continuing to destroy our home, the “best planet in the universe” as James says, let’s be inspired by the magic of the Earth and our humble selves, and learn to live in greater harmony with all of life!