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The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History…

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014)

by Elizabeth Kolbert

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
There have been five major extinctions. We may be headed (primarily due to humans) toward a 6th. This book is a mix of archaeology, paleontology, geology, anthropology, zoology, biology, history… The author looks at some species that have already gone extinct and others that appear to be heading that way. The book is filled with mastodons and mammoths, dinosaurs, rhinos, bats, neanderthals and humans (though we’re the only ones in this scenario that are expanding!).

I quite liked this, but I have to admit (and maybe it’s – at least in part – due to listening to it rather than reading it), I’m afraid I won’t remember most of it before too long. The information was not really surprising to me, but I did find it very interesting while I listened, even if I’m not sure how much I will remember.. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jun 20, 2018 |
Kindle book borrowed from library January 2018
Review The Sixth Extinction makes the case that we are currently in the midst of a sixth major extinction event (there have been five previous events in the history of life on the planet) that is mainly driven by human factors. The author examines previous events and their causes and highlights modern extinctions and their causes.

I have studied conservation biology so many of the concepts and examples in the book were not new to me. However, I think the author does a good job highlighting the issues and the history for those that are not already familiar with them. I agree with others, that the way the book was organized was not as clear as it could be and that it jumped around a bit. I thought the best part of the book was the stories of the scientists studying the issues. She does a great job of showing what it is like being a scientist in the field and the kinds of evidence they have for humans being a major factor in extinction and climate change. These are not politically motivated people with an agenda. They are people that have dedicated their lives to studying the world and the changes occurring. I also think she does a good job highlighting the history of scientific theory regarding evolution and extinction. I believe that this shows that scientific consensus can change, but that it takes a whole lot of evidence for it to do so. ( )
  Cora-R | Jun 20, 2018 |
I learned many new things and I laughed a few times as well. That's pretty much a win for non-fiction.

Humanity's impact on the environment tends to either be presented in a deliberately polarizing manner for political reasons or presented with assumptions of scientific knowledge which most lack. The author did an amazing job of explaining the science behind the impact in layman's terms without omitting details that frequently don't make "news" stories on the topic. She even took the time to explain how mistakes and theory discrepancies happen in science. Even better, she did all of this calmly by presenting facts and logic without resorting to emotional manipulation.

I loved the inclusion of small personal notes about the assorted scientists featured. While such asides don't contribute to the main premise of the book, they do make it much more engaging. Between that and her wonderful descriptive style, I found myself able to visualize her experiences and environments with a fullness usually only found in fiction.

There are two things which would have greatly enhanced my pleasure in this book. An insert of color photos of the assorted plants and animals discussed would be awesome. I did Google quite a bit while reading this and it would have been preferable to have photos right in the book.Additionally, a chart/timeline depicting the assorted eras and epochs mentioned in chronological order with dates and maybe a few sample organisms listed for each section would have been great. Perhaps with the mass extinctions and suggested range for the anthropocene marked as well? As clear as her explanations were, some information processes better in images than text.

Things I think should be changed before the final release:

I'm hoping the end notes will be numbered in text with subscript in the final edition.

The graph on page 16 is hella blurry.

On page 46 at the end of chapter 2, she first mentions that the megafauna extinction is becoming understood as being the result of the spread of modern humans. No specifics are gone into on this until page 230. This left me wary that she was going to start making assertions without any kind of backup in the beginning of the book and I felt a bit weirded out all the way through the book by that hanging thread even when it became clear that she was validating her beliefs with facts. As a reader, it would have been better for that statement to have been omitted in chapter 2 if it wasn't going to be developed for almost 200 pages. At the very least, it should be noted that it will be expanded upon later in the book.

Page 86, line 19, the paragraph that starts with "The bolide arrived from the southeast..." I'm assuming that "doe to its trajectory" (later in that paragraph) should read due "to its trajectory."

The last sentence on 113 going over to page 114 reads "Change the atmosphere's composition atmosphere..." Is that right? It seems like the second atmosphere is superfluous or at least awkward.

I would omit the bit about the gift shop cashier not showing Ms. Kolbert around from page 226. It comes across petty and unflattering to the author. Even if there were no other customers, it's a given in *any* clerking job that you don't leave the shop unattended. You can get fired for that.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via a Goodreads giveaway. Many thanks to all involved in providing me with this opportunity. ( )
  Zoes_Human | Jun 17, 2018 |
[b: The Sixth Extinction|17910054|The Sixth Extinction An Unnatural History|Elizabeth Kolbert|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1372677697s/17910054.jpg|25095506] came out in 2014, yet it is still deeply relevant today. The notion of the Anthropocene being an era that is distinguished by human-caused extinctions is now a generally accepted one - and that the rate of extinctions is only increasing - is hardly controversial. This book is not about slowing or halting it, nor is it firmly couched in the idea that nothing can be done. Instead, this book is simply setting down the facts that this exists. That this is us. It is left to books such as [b: On Extinctions|31338918|Extinctions|Josephine Wilson|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1470646158s/31338918.jpg|52013614] and [b: Crow Planet|6438710|Crow Planet Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness|Lyanda Lynn Haupt|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1344263351s/6438710.jpg|6628596] to show that things can indeed, and are, being done.

This book is depressing, but all too necessary. It details bit by bit what is happening to the world, how biodiversity has formed over time and is now threatened, and what that may mean for us. The latter half of the book I enjoyed a bit more - if only for my endless fascination with other species of hominids - and I am pleased that this book was before its time with the introduction of the Denisovans to the human tree.

This book should be required reading for all, or at least in all high schools. There is so much to be learned about human nature, and to learn to follow the better angels of it. We may have a madness gene, but we are also cognizant enough to recognize it. There are still things to be done, there is still hope. All does not need to lost, like the moa. ( )
  Lepophagus | Jun 14, 2018 |
Spoiler alert! Humans are causing the 6th mass extinction. SURPRISE! ( )
  nheredia05 | Jun 12, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth Kolbertprimary authorall editionscalculated
Twomey, AnneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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If there is danger in the human trajectory, it is not so much in the survival of our own species as in the fulfillment of the ultimate irony of organic evolution: that in the instant of achieving self-understanding through the mind of man, life has doomed its most beautiful creations. - E.O. Wilson
Centuries of centuries and only in the present do things happen. - Jorge Luis Borges
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The town of El Valle de Antón, in Central Panama, sits in the middle of a volcanic crater formed about a million years ago.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805092994, Hardcover)

A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes

Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:32 -0400)

Over the last half billion years, there have been five major mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on Earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around the cataclysm is us. In this book the author tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before. She provides a moving account of the disappearances of various species occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up to Lyell and Darwin, and through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.… (more)

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