Life of Earth: Potrait of a Beautiful, Middle-aged, Stressed Out World
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In this portrait of Planet Earth, biologist Stanley A. Rice discusses the evolution of the global network of life and the crucial role played by humans in determining the future of our world.

Unlike most books on Earth's history, which present the story of life on our planet in terms of one chronological period after another, Rice discusses the Earth's teeming diversity in terms of pivotal evolutionary developments.

Rice also discusses the role of photosynthesis in establishing and maintaining life on Earth; the evidence for ancient natural catastrophes, which caused widespread extinctions; as well as the importance of religion, the recent use of scientific reasoning in human development, and the critical role our species continues to play in the future of the planet.

Human history represents only a tiny sliver of our planet's cosmic existence, a relationship Rice depicts by comparing the presence of human life on Earth (the width of a thumb) to the width of North America. But, as it happens, humans represent the most incredibly complex development and interweaving of not only sexual selection and altruism but also religion and reason---more than in any other species that has ever lived on the planet. Life of Earth, therefore, is actually an intimate story about us, and we humans are tremendously captivated by intriguing accounts of our own history.

Rice's engaging approach is well designed to foster an appreciation for the scope of life on our planet and to encourage wise stewardship of the natural world on which our very survival depends.
Stanley A. Rice is a professor of biological sciences at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant. He is the author of Encyclopedia of Evolution and Green Planet: How Plants Keep the Earth Alive. His website of ecology essays can be found at, and his evolution blog is at