Perhaps it was the provocative title or the eye-catching cover art that first attracted me to Peter Ward’s 2007 book Under A Green Sky when I first saw it in the Quality Paperback Club catalog. Of course after learning that Ward’s book explores not only the origins behind the earth’s planet-wide extinctions but the warning of a future man-made extinction, I wanted to read the book even more. So, after spotting Under A Green Sky sitting on a shelf at my local public library I grabbed it. While it wasn’t the most enjoyable book I’ve read this year, Ward’s book covered a lot of ground. More importantly, there was a lot of science discussed in the book and thankfully, Ward did a pretty good job making the discussion accessible for non-scientists like myself. Therefore, I thought it was a pretty good book.
Peter Ward, a NASA astrobiologist and earth sciences professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, in his book Under A Green Sky chronicles the search for causes behind the earth’s prehistoric extinctions. Incorporating decades of field research in far-flung locations around the world such as the Queen Charlotte Islands, Tunisia, Palau, the Basque coast and the Republic of South Africa, Ward examines the unsettling phenomena of recurring global extinctions and their respective origins.
I think I came away from Ward’s book with a better understanding of science as an ongoing process. Discoveries are made, theories are produced and everything is evaluated and debated in laboratories, peer-reviewed journals and conferences. In addition, this process has significant political overtones with various factions fighting over the worthiness of their deeply held theories. Lastly, Ward’s book portrayed the importance of the “nuts and bolts” aspect of the scientific process such as the careful examinations of cause and effect relationships, indirect evidence and testable theories. So I guess if a book can do all of this and not put me to sleep, it’s a pretty good book.