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Pandora's Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization (2010)

by Spencer Wells

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288973,136 (3.49)7
The author of The Journey of Man examines our cultural inheritance in order to find the turning point that led us to the path we are on today, one he believes we must veer from in order to survive.
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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Sort of a mixed bag this book. Part of it was looking at the DNA of very early human populations, and other parts considered climate change, oil and commodity prices and genetic disorders.

What he said was very good, but didn't hang together. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
I would give this 2.5 stars.

Some new stuff, lots of old stuff and rather a lot of vagueness. I still have no clue why the hunter-gatherer hold the key to our survival.

Edit: Grandma like this book a lot. ( )
  ElentarriLT | Mar 24, 2020 |
The author suggests that civilization is the problem not the solution. He offers a hopeful prescription for altering a life to which we were always ill-suited.
  PendleHillLibrary | Mar 12, 2020 |
Pandora’s Seed, while containing all the essential ingredients to make me giddy - Natufians, evolutionary history, the rise and fall of empires - never quite congealed into a focused or inventive text. Because of its breadth, it skipped quickly between topics without any of the depth and insight that a reader expects from an expert-in-his-field like Spencer Wells. The overall effect of such a scatter-shot tour of the agriculture revolution, is that of a mash-up of the works other more inspired texts of authors such as Jared Diamond, Michael Pollan and Karen Armstrong. Still though - Natufians! ( )
  rabbit.blackberry | Oct 19, 2017 |
Pandora’s Seed, while containing all the essential ingredients to make me giddy - Natufians, evolutionary history, the rise and fall of empires - never quite congealed into a focused or inventive text. Because of its breadth, it skipped quickly between topics without any of the depth and insight that a reader expects from an expert-in-his-field like Spencer Wells. The overall effect of such a scatter-shot tour of the agriculture revolution, is that of a mash-up of the works other more inspired texts of authors such as Jared Diamond, Michael Pollan and Karen Armstrong. Still though - Natufians! ( )
  rabbit.blackberry | Oct 19, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
The gods presented her with a box into which each had put something harmful, and forbade her ever to open it. Then they sent her to Epimetheus, who took her gladly although Prometheus had warned him never to accept anything from Zeus. He took her, and afterward, when that dangerous thing, a woman, was his, he understood how good his brother's advice had been. For Pandora, like all women, was possessed of a lively curiosity. She had to know what was in the box. One day she lifted the lid and out flew plagues innumerable, sorrow and mischief for mankind. In terror Pandora clapped the lid down, but too late. One good thing, however, was there -- Hope. It was the only good the casket had held among the many evils, and it remains to this day mankind's sole comfort in misfortune.

(AS RETOLD BY EDITH HAMILTON)
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To Pam, for peace, love, and understanding
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As I write this, I am 36,000 feet above the Arabian Sea, sipping a glass of wine and typing on my laptop.
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Most countries, however, concerned about the dangers of another Chernobyl-like disaster, as well as the political difficulties of waste disposal (who wants to live near a nuclear waste storage facility?), have not been as pro-nuclear, and overall only around 15 percent of the world's electricity comes from nuclear power. 
This looks set to change over the next century, as nuclear waste disposal methods become increasingly sophisticated and power plants become safer and more efficient.
-- p. 176
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The author of The Journey of Man examines our cultural inheritance in order to find the turning point that led us to the path we are on today, one he believes we must veer from in order to survive.

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More food but also disease, craziness, and anomie resulted from the agricultural revolution, according to this diffuse meditation on progress and its discontents. Wells (The Journey of Man), a geneticist, anthropologist, and National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence, voices misgivings about the breakthrough to farming 10,000 years ago, spurred by climate change. The food supply was more stable, but caused populations to explode; epidemics flourished because of overcrowding and proximity to farm animals; despotic governments emerged to organize agricultural production; and warfare erupted over farming settlements. Then came urbanism and modernity, which clashed even more intensely with our nomadic hunter-gatherer nature. Nowadays, Wells contends, we are both stultified and overstimulated, cut off from the land and alienated from one other, resulting in mental illness and violent fundamentalism. Wells gives readers an engaging rundown of the science that reconstructs the prehistoric past, but he loses focus in trying to connect that past to every contemporary issue from obesity to global warming, and his solution is unconvincingly simple: Want less. B&w photos.
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Tantor Media

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