Rob Dunn

In 1989, Bill McKibben published a rallying cry to fight on behalf of the future. His book, “The End of Nature,” would propel conservation action, attempts to mitigate climate change and more. And similar books would follow, such as David Wallace-Wells’ “The Uninhabitable Earth.” These books were important and useful, but in one important way they were wrong: All this does not spell the end of nature. Our end is far nearer than is nature’s end.

All the worst things we can imagine doing to Earth — nuclear war, climate change, massive pollution, habitat loss and all the rest — may affect multicellular species like us but are unlikely to lead to the extinction of most major lineages on the evolutionary tree. Much of the biological world actually prefers conditions that are more extreme than the conditions we prefer or even those we can tolerate.

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