No matter how many times I remind myself to never judge a book by its cover, there are some whose covers are so cool that you can’t not take a look inside. Thankfully, the contents of The Nature of Nature live up to the grandeur of the artful cover, with foil accents that reveal animals hidden in the leaves depending on how the light hits it. National Geographic Explorer Enric Sala speaks to readers like a close friend, revealing some of the marvels of the natural world while also stressing the need to protect it.

I’m not the type of reader to skip to the end right away, but when I saw that the epilogue was titled “The Nature of Coronavirus,” I grew impatient to jump straight to it. As Enric explains, The Nature of Nature would’ve been released earlier this year if he hadn’t realized as the pandemic hit that pretty much everything in the book was building up to something like this. The book talks of mankind’s disrespect for nature, even with chapters about the destruction of entire ecosystems by the removal of the top predator. The book makes the case for the necessity of bats (and pangolins) in earlier chapters and shows that the fact that these animals exist has greater benefits to mankind than we think. But as is very clear by what the world is going through now, it just took one person with a complete disregard for the natural separation between bats, the animals they are in close contact with, and humans to create worldwide chaos.

This is one book where I actually recommend reading ahead first, because having the information from the epilogues in the back of my mind helped put the entire book into clearer perspective. As a former educator, Enric Sala’s book reads somewhat like a fascinating lecture. The book is well researched, with lots of examples to back up each claim and even references to pop culture to break things down into layman’s terms. The underground fungal network that helps trees talk to each other and share the burden of environmental stressors known as mycelium is likened to Gaia in James Cameron’s Avatar, for example.

The Nature of Nature is not just about the miracles of the natural world, diving deep into the meaning of ecosystems and biospheres, but it’s also a book about climate change. I would challenge anyone who thinks mankind hasn’t had a negative impact on the environment to say that again after finishing this book. In many ways, the book is also the story of carbon, how it moves around, where it should be, and how we can get it back there.

Perhaps the most important chapter for readers is called “How Are We Different?” It comes after a deep analysis of how predatory animals work in nature, helping to keep other species under control, which in term helps to stop grazers from eating every plant in sight. Mankind is certainly a predatory species, but we’re not like any other keystone predator in nature and this section really puts into perspective just how far our habits have destroyed animal habitats.

What makes Enric Sala a credible voice for this information to be shared? With a Ph.D. in ecology, Enric was a university professor in oceanography who realized that he was continually writing the obituary of the oceans. Wanting to take action, he worked with National Geographic to found the Pristine Seas Project that seeks to essentially do for areas of the oceans what national parks do on land. But more than that, with the writing on the wall for mass devastation if we don’t start reversing manmad climate change, he is helping lead the charge to have 30% of earth protected by 2030 at the minimum.

Far from a doomsday book, The Nature of Nature is an essential instruction manual for mankind’s survival that can’t be done by any one person. While reading, I was often reminded of the Cosmos TV series through the book’s use of evidence based research and introducing readers to the scientists who discovered it to prove each and every point (with a helpful and well laid out references section at the back of the book to help you find continued reading on topics that spark your imagination). It’s not often that you read a book that feels like it could change the world, but The Nature of Nature just might be it.