Wilson invokes a moral imperative to save nature
THE CREATION: AN APPEAL TO SAVE LIFE ON EARTH
By E.O. Wilson
W.W. Norton & Co., $21.95.
Reviewed by TOM HENRY
One of the world's most respected scientists, Harvard University's E.O.Wilson, once again shows why he also is one of its greatest nature essayists in "The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth."
It's a beautiful look into one of America's hotter, though lesser-reported topics: The degree to which religion and the environment can converge to help one another.
An Alabama native, Wilson – whose absorbing prose is often likened to that of a modern Henry David Thoreau – makes his case for strengthening that bond as if he is writing letters to a Southern Baptist minister.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning entomologist offers fascinating tidbits about anything from ants (one of Wilson's favorite topics) to the powerful wolverine, all in a tapestry of eloquent, conversational writing. Lay readers and experts alike can come away with a better understanding of why conservation matters.
Wilson argues that the future of the planet depends on how well science and religion – Darwin theories and all – can put aside their differences and come together on a common ground over values they share for land stewardship, clean air, safe drinking water and, above all, the sanctity of life.
The latter has always been one of Wilson's biggest missions, given his previous books and speeches about how mankind still knows so relatively little about nature.
Few people, he says, probably realize there are still likely thousands of plants, animals and other forms of life on Earth that have never even been identified.
"Earth is a laboratory wherein Nature (God, if you prefer, Pastor) has laid before us the results of countless experiments. She speaks to us; now let us listen," Wilson writes.
He makes the case for why it is the "moral imperative" for religion and science to save Earth, suggesting neither one can do it on its own.
"Life on this planet can stand no more plundering," Wilson writes. "Those living today will either win the race against extinction or lose it, the latter for all time. They will either earn everlasting honor or everlasting contempt."
It's hard to come away from this book without a greater appreciation of nature – and without feeling just a little more spiritual.
Tom Henry is an environmental reporter for the Toledo Blade in Ohio.
** From SEJ's quarterly newsletter SEJournal Spring, 2007 issue.