Named the Most Important Science Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly

Life in the Balance
Humanity and the Biodiversity Crisis

Niles Eldredge

“The most important science book of the year....In crystalline prose illustrated with delicate drawings, Eldredge examines the erosion of our planet’s ecological balance and suggests ways to avoid global catastrophe”
Publishers Weekly

Pel’s Fishing Owl (Scotopelia peli) taking a fish at night.

Botswana's Okavango Delta is considered by many to be one of the last "Edens" left on Earth. It is a scene not unlike the one from which our earliest human ancestors first emerged and evolved in East Africa some 5 to 6 million years ago. It can be said to be our true birthplace. But all is not right in paradise.

The same insults in microcosm—encroaching agriculture, water diversion, disease, and pollution—threaten the Okavango that in macrocosm threaten the entire planet. Starting with a sensual journey by plane and boat, Niles Eldredge leads a reader first to the very heart of the Okavango. It is a journey that reveals the twin faces of biodiversity (the 13 million extant species and the myriad ecosystems through which these species transform and exchange the Sun's energy) and the value of biodiversity to our own continued existence. There are a number of difficult actions we must take as a global society if we are to stem an impending Sixth Extinction, and Eldredge outlines these steps in detail in what has been hailed as “the most important science book of the year.” We have imagined ourselves out-side—above and beyond—nature. Through this book we see how our own fate is inextricably bound with the riotously diverse environment of Earth.

Niles Eldredge is curator in the Department of Invertebrates at the American Museum of Natural History. He is the author of numerous books, including Fossils: The Evolution and Extinction of Species; Dominion; Time Frames: The Evolution of Punctuated Equilibrium; The Miner's Canary; The Patterns of Evolution; and The Triumph of Evolution (…and the failure of creationism).

Rights available: World except China/Taiwan, Italy, Japan, Korea, North America, Portugal, Spain

The Chambered Nautilus (Nautilus pompilius).


240 pages
45 black and white illustrations
2 appendices
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches; 155 x 235 mm

“Eldredge is at his very best....Eldredge sketches [the Okavango Delta] food webs as having a complex interdependence worthy of a Faulkner family saga....Yet in Life in the Balance, his writing is infused, too, with a sense of the Fall....The story of man's dominion over nature and his subsequent abuse of power cannot be told too often, and Eldredge has provided one of the most succinct accounts yet.”
Richard Fortey, The New York Times                     Book Review

The Duck-Billed Platypus
Ornithorhynchus anatinus).

“Eldredge makes a strong case that, as a worldwide culture of educated people, we must ‘strike a balance’....Life in the Balance is written for the general public, especially the museum-going public. The text is engaging and hugely informative.”
Lynn Margulis, The Times Higher                     Education Supplement

“This is a book for the general reader who wants to understand what the mysterious notion of ‘biodiversity’ comprises and to appreciate the damage we are doing to our life-support systems on a daily basis.”
Peter Raven, Scientific American

“Like the Bible, Koran and Talmud, this book praises the act of creative evolution and sets out a code of behavior for humanity. It is a natural history of the world seen through the eyes of a modern-day prophet....The text is a delight, written as if the story in all its intricate detail has been bottled up and is bursting to get out. This is such a strong impression that I had the feeling that once the author had his fingers on the keyboard, the book just had to happen.”
New Scientist

“An eloquent and passionate account by one of today's leading scientists, Life in the Balance will draw new attention to one of the most pressing problems now facing the world.”
Kirkus Reviews

“For anyone puzzled by the recent concern over rapid disappearance of many of the planet's species, this book is a superb primer on why we should worry about biodiversity.... Eldredge's book offers readers a clear, concise and beautifully illustrated tour of modern biology.”
The Washington Post


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