Mass extinction events, superviruses, climate change and reverse genetics keeping you up at night? Maybe they should. The Fate of the Species: Why The Human Race May Cause Its Own Extinction and How We Can Stop It (Bloomsbury, $25, hardcover) by Fred Guterl, is the ultimate apocalyptic bedtime story, leaving you more aware than ever just how vulnerable the human race is.
Guterl, in a style described as “deliciously pessimistic,” has deftly created a page turner of cautionary tales comprised of “what if” scenarios. Whatever your secret fears are — a deadly superbug, a cataclysmic climate change event or technology run amok — Guterl has worried about them, too, and talked to the top scientific experts who weigh in on what threats are real and what may be on the horizon.
Guterl takes us through history’s “uh-oh” moments — dinosaurs moments before the meteor hit, Black Death in the 14th century, settlers wiped out on Greenland by climate change — and what bioweapons experts learned from a simulated smallpox attack dubbed Dark Winter, just months before 9/11.
Like all good tellers of bedtime stories, Guterl, an executive editor at Scientific American, injects just enough optimism, holding out the promise of ingenuity winning over extinction, so you can sleep at night, albeit with a nightmare or two. Beyond the fear factor, the book comprehensively navigates the biggest menaces we face as a species and details what scientists are currently doing or could do, to try and avert them. It also shows us how much more we need to think about saving the planet and ourselves, way beyond riding our bikes to work.
Guterl will be speaking and signing copies of The Fate of the Species at Watchung Booksellers on Sunday, June 3, at 3 pm.