Book Review By Thornton W. Blease
Biophilia by E. O. Wilson, a two time Pulitzer Prize winning author and Evolutionary Biologist as well as a Harvard University professor, is a book consisting of nine intellectually crafted nonfiction essays. The essays illustrate his thesis that Biophilia is an innate tendency of humans to focus and love living things.
Biophilia begins in a journalistic style, recounting Wilson’s various expeditions to the Amazon River basin in search for an elusive species of ants. He describes the forest with an appeal to all five senses, making it easy to accompany Wilson upon his trips. Wilson demonstrates Biophilia with figurative language instead of merely describing it. Thus, by the use of sensory details it becomes obvious that Biophilia is a major force effecting how humans react to living organisms. He points out that fungi, protists and plants have been around far longer than Homo Sapiens, and humans depend on these kingdoms for survival. In other words, we are not the only species that matter.
In his conclusion he relates the conservationist ethic, what humans need to do because of their innate biophilia. Man depends on other living organisms for survival, thus Wilson argues that humans need to care for natural resources if we want to remain alive.
The book is well written and easily readable, and I have reflected on both the content of the essays, as well as viewing it as a model for developing descriptive articles that make a statement. It sparks a thought process within me; while marveling at the vivid first hand accounts of nature, I also am drawn into the bigger picture of our role within the universe. I am a human, and man, like it or not, is intimately tied, woven into the fabric of the Earth. While making his point, Wilson uses some of the best sensory descriptions, drenched in poetic figurative language. He proves that academic writing does not have to be boring.
Wilson’s approach, using personal experience to illustrate the conservationist ethic is fresh and free from the obsessions and panic of the current environmentalist movement. While he seeks to impart its practical lessons, he avoids cultism and uses common sense, laced with vivid sensory details in a highly readable book recommended to all.