A leading ecologist argues that if humankind is to survive on a fragile planet, we must understand and obey its iron laws

Our species has amassed unprecedented knowledge of nature, which we have tried to use to seize control of life and bend the planet to our will. In A Natural History of the Future, biologist Rob Dunn argues that such efforts are futile. We may see ourselves as life’s overlords, but we are instead at its mercy. In the evolution of antibiotic resistance, the power of natural selection to create biodiversity, and even the surprising life of the London Underground, Dunn finds laws of life that no human activity can annul. When we create artificial islands of crops, dump toxic waste, or build communities, we provide new materials for old laws to shape. Life’s future flourishing is not in question. Ours is.

As ambitious as Edward Wilson’s Sociobiology and as timely as Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, A Natural History of the Future sets a new standard for understanding the diversity and destiny of life itself.

What's Inside

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Reader Reviews

Praise

“[A] lucid discussion …Dunn’s absorbing analysis advocates making the most of the few certainties we have.”—Scientific American

A stimulating exploration into how the laws of biology can help us ‘understand the future into which we are—arms flailing, coal burning, and full speed ahead—hurling ourselves.’ … Dealing reasonably with the circumstances requires knowledge and imagination. The author avoids the usual implausible how-to-fix-it conclusion… Instead, he offers a book that is less doomsday prophecy and more excellent primer on ecology and evolution. An imaginative, sensible education for those concerned with the fate of the Earth.”

Kirkus
"[Dunn argues] people can help mitigate the effects of climate change by valuing “the rest of life” outside humanity, as well as heeding the lessons that other life has to teach. Thoughtful and accessible, this deserves a wide readership."—Publishers Weekly
“In forecasting future ecology, Dunn enlists biological laws to predict what likely lies ahead for life on our planet, including us… Dunn engagingly explains biogeography, inventive intelligence, and speedy evolutionary reaction to changing conditions.” —Tony Miksanek, Booklist
“A fascinating, shocking, and inspiring guide to the future by one of the most creative and eloquent biologists of our time. Dunn’s book is packed full of insight from the latest scientific discoveries about the wonders and troubles of the living Earth.”
 —David George Haskell, author of The Forest Unseen
“Speciations in weird urban habitats, viruses chasing hosts around the globe, and the greatest challenge life on Earth has faced for two million years: this is the fascinating and sobering ecology of the Anthropocene.”
 —Rebecca Wragg Sykes, author of Kindred
“A timely, thought-provoking analysis, delivered in the affable prose that has become Dunn’s hallmark.”—Thor Hanson, author of Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid
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