Meet Gaia Vince.

(Picture: Penguin Random House)

Who is she?

A former science journalist who left her desk job in London to spend 800 days travelling the world documenting environmental changes caused by humans for a new book.

Nice work if you can get it. What became of her trip?

The work has led her to become the first female author to win the coveted Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books individually since the prize was introduced 27 years ago. The £25,000 prize has only been claimed by one other woman, Pat Shipman, who was a co-author on a book about dinosaurs.

What’s it about?

“The enormous impacts we’re having on our living planet in the anthropocene are a direct consequence of the immense social changes we’re undergoing – changes to how we live as a species,” writes Vince. Scientists call the 12,000 years since the last ice age which has provided the stable conditions for civilisation to survive and expand the Holocene, says Ms Vince. But all of this is potentially under threat by the new geological era of the anthropocene, so-called because humans have changed the planet so dramatically. Ms Vince wanted to see for herself the direct impact that humans are having on the planet so she visited a number of destinations, from a hydroelectric project in Patagonia to a silver mine in Bolivia and from the deserts surrounding Lake Turkana in northern Kenya to the crowded slums of Colombia.

What do the critics say?

Ian Stewart, a member of the judging panel and an award-winning author, said: “She has captured the issue of the day in a way that is ultimately empowering without ever being complacent. We are very proud to recognise this ambitious and essential work.”

Who were the other contenders?

Ms Vince faced tough competition from other science books such as Alex Through the Looking Glass by Alex Bellos and The Man Who Couldn’t Stop by David Adam.

Will her name now go down in history?

That’s to be decided, but one previous notable winner of the prize was a certain Mr S Hawking.

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