Evolution in a toxic world

Evolution in a toxic world. Image: Island Press

DTT can still be found in humans; chlorofluorocarbons are slowing fading from our atmosphere, and there is mercury in the fish we eat. Every day, our world seems to be turning into a more poisonous place to live.

But it turns out that this planet has always been toxic. When life first appeared on Earth 3.8 billion years ago, it had to contend with immense amounts of radiation. When single cells began to join together, cancer followed soon after, and the ongoing chemical warfare between plants and animals that makes anything we have ever developed look almost amateurish in comparison.

If you’ve ever been interested in our planet’s history, Evolution in a Toxic World presents the other side of the equation: toxicology, the ancient study of poisons.¬†Author Emily Monosson has taken a good look at the oldest toxic process on the planet, how we have evolved to deal with oxygen and why microbes are no longer so vulnerable to penicillin.

This book is not for the faint-hearted, as it includes a lot of scientific terms and jargon, but it does provide detailed information about how life evolved to survive everything that our planet, other organisms and its own cells can throw at it through some fascinating examples. It also takes a quick look at what the future might hold as our planet changes, as there is no higher ground left to escape from chemicals.

And just remember, what doesn’t kill you really can make you stronger.


Emily Monosson

Island Press

RRP: $49.99, available here

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