Ch. 1 - To The Ends of Earth
Wilson's first chapter, To the Ends of the Earth
is a fast flowing and delightfully delicious romp through the "luxuriance of biodiversity".
He begins and ends this chapter with clues to what he referred to as "wisdom of the heart" in his prologue- pointing towards a religious framework, perhaps making allies of folk in spiritual communities? Or is he accepting the limitations of a strictly scientific worldview in solving our ecological crises?
This chapter is a project to describe the "totality of life", and Wilson places the scientific term "biodiversity" alongside the theological term "creation" without any desire to explain, compare or contrast, or adopt one over the other. Instead, like the lush mix of interconnected and cross-pollinated living beings he brilliantly classifies, the two terms co-exist.
Likewise, he ends the chapter with:"Such is the biospheric membrane that covers the Earth, and you and me. It is the miracle we have been given."
In between these scientific and theological bookends, Wilson provides a cornucopic display of everything large and small, cold and hot, light and dark, up and down, hidden and found, wet and dry across, within, above, and below the 'totality of life' on Earth....where somewhere between 1.5 and 1.8 million species have been discovered and named, with estimates of the total number range from 3.6 million to over 100 million.
Wilson's highlighting of the extremophiles
of the biosphere (such as certain specialized microbes and bacterias) able to thrive and multiply in the hottest and coldest regions of the most inhospitable regions of the planet...seems to be an attempt to bolster our confidence in the power of life; which will certainly falter as he paints his frightening picture of the future in the following chapters. "To the ends" refers to both the geographic and molecular extremes; as well as the finality and destruction of the biosphere.
"To The Ends of Earth" lives up to its name, taking the reader from the deepest regions of the ocean floor, the frozen soil of Antartica, the Annamite Mountains of Vietnam and Laos, to frighteningly close domains uncomfortably close to home:"You do not have to visit distant places, or even rise from your seat, to experience the luxuriance of biodiversity. You yourself are a rainforest of a kind. There is a good chance that tiny spiderlike mites build nests at the base of your eyelashes. Fungal spores and hyphae on your toenails await the right conditions to sprout a Lilliputian forest. The vast majority of the cells in your body are not your own; they belong to bacterial and other microscopic species. More than four hundred such microbial species make their home in your mouth."
"To the ends" refers to both the geographic and molecular extremes; as well as the finality and destruction of the biosphere. Edited by: Dissident Heart at: 11/28/04 12:43 am