Foreword by Alice Roberts
Thames & Hudson, 2015
Reviewed by Stephen Wollaston (aka Santoshan)
Evolution: The Whole Story is a comprehensive and fabulous full-colour guide to what we currently understand about the amazing journey and history of life on Earth, of which we are all amazing interrelated parts in the forever unfolding web of life. It is not a book most of us are going to sit down and read from cover to cover but something to treasure as an awesome reference book to dive deeply into and be inspired by. The illustrations, graphs and stunning photographs alone are worth the modest price of this beautifully printed book. The back-cover blurb informs us that: Along the way, you will encounter pivotal evolutionary turning points, uncover false starts and global disasters, and trace the crucial scientific breakthroughs that have contributed to our understanding of this planet and the creatures on it.
The book is laid out in chronological timelines plotting key evolutionary events and includes seven specific chapters on ‘Early Life’, ‘Plants’, ‘Invertebrates’, ‘Fish and Amphibians’, ‘Reptiles’, ‘Birds’, and ‘Mammals’. Each chapter is broken down further to other specific categories, charting numerous evolutionary events. Profiles of important scientists who made major contributions to our knowledge of evolution are also obviously included. In all, there are eleven contributors from backgrounds such as Zoology, Palaeontology and Conservational – the latter being of particular interest for the sustainability of biodiversity in the current history of our Earth. The general editor himself, Steve Parker, is a Senior Scientific Fellow of the Zoological Society of London, and has done a fabulous job in putting such as vast range of essential findings and knowledge together in a highly readable and accessible style. His Introduction is of course well-informed and points out that,
“The scientific study of evolution is ever changing, like the subject… Evolution studies are being transformed by advancing technologies of many kinds, including new microscopes, improved fossil extraction and scrutiny, chemical isotope analysis, X-rays and scans, including CT (computer tomography)… Greater understanding might suggest – in a context of climate change, pollution, potential food shortages and disease epidemics, fewer wild habits and many challenges – where the natural world and ourselves are heading.”
With such insight in mind, it makes me realise the importance of a book of this kind and its subject, and how learning from past events can assist us in making wise decisions now for the future, health and sustainability of so many lifeforms, including our own. For me, this is not just a book that I would highly recommend for GreenSpirit readers, but an essential one to study, reflect upon and be more informed by.