Life Changing: SHORTLISTED FOR THE WAINWRIGHT PRIZE FOR WRITING ON GLOBAL CONSERVATION (Hardcover)
In this post-natural history guide, Helen Pilcher invites us to meet key species that have been sculpted by humanity.
We are now living through the post-natural phase, where the fate of all living things is irrevocably intertwined with our own. We domesticated animals to suit our needs, and altered their DNA--wolves became dogs to help us hunt, junglefowl became chickens to provide us with eggs, wildebeest were transformed through breeding into golden gnus so rifle-clad tourists had something to shoot. And this was only the beginning. As our knowledge grew we found new ways to tailor the DNA of animals more precisely; we've now cloned police dogs and created a little glow-in-the-dark fish--the world's first genetically modified pet. The breakthroughs continue.
Through climate change, humans have now affected even the most remote environments and their inhabitants, and studies suggest that through our actions we are forcing some animals to evolve at breakneck speed to survive. Whilst some are thriving, others are on the brink of extinction, and for others the only option is life in captivity. Today, it's not just the fittest that survive; sometimes it's the ones we decide to let live.
According to the Bible, Noah built the original ark to save the world's creatures from imminent floods. Now the world is warming, the ice caps are melting and sea levels are rising. With nowhere "wild" left to go, Helen Pilcher proposes a New Ark. In this entertaining and thought-provoking book, she considers the many ways that we've shaped the DNA of the animal kingdom and in so doing, altered the fate of life on earth. In her post-natural history guide, she invites us to meet key species that have been sculpted by humanity, as well as the researchers and conservationists who create, manage and tend to these post-natural creations.
About the Author
Helen Pilcher is a tea-drinking, biscuit-nibbling science and comedy writer. She has a PhD in Cell Biology from London's Institute of Psychiatry. A former reporter for Nature, she now specializes in biology, medicine and quirky off-the-wall science, and writes for outlets including New Scientist and BBC Focus. Unusually for a self-proclaimed geek, Helen also used to be a stand-up comedian before the arrival of children meant she couldn't physically stay awake past 9pm. She now gigs from time to time, and lives in rural Warwickshire with her husband, three kids and besotted dog.
“Tackles how humans are altering existing animal life. It has some good lines and is richly entertaining throughout, but under the surface it is pretty serious.'” —Sunday Times
“Helen Pilcher takes on the unenviable task of describing how our species has been on a collision course, spanning roughly 300,000 years of history, with the rest of life on earth. It shouldn't make for good reading but, mercifully, Pilcher is both very funny and very, very clever.” —Gillian Burke, biologist and TV presenter
“With warm wit and glorious pace, Life Changing delivers an eloquent commentary on this, the age of post-natural history. Expertly pulling together and detailing the work of hundreds of scientists around the world, Pilcher encourages us to ask timely questions about our role as stewards and curators of a planet struggling under our influence.” —Jules Howard, naturalist, science writer and author of Death on Earth
“An impressive rendering of the disturbing history of human tinkering with nature.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Science writer Pilcher (Bring Back the King) delivers an agreeable account of how humans have bred and altered animals throughout history ... Popular science readers will find her work entertaining.” —Publishers Weekly
“Pilcher's amusing yet grounded excursion into the essential ways humans, animals, plants, and microorganisms must coexist is both a rich and riotous popular science trove well worth contemplating.” —Booklist