Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
From the author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe, a powerful and important workabout the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a compelling 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.
The Sixth Extinction draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines-geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, and marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. Elizabeth Kolbert, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer, accompanies many of these researchers into the field, and introduces you to a dozen species-some already gone, others facing extinction-that are being affected by the sixth extinction.
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.
A major book about the future of the world, blending natural history, field reporting and the history of ideas and into a powerful account of the mass extinction happening today
A distinctive and eloquent voice of conscience ... In her timely, meticulously researched and well-written book, Kolbert combines scientific analysis and personal narratives to explain it to us. The result is a clear and comprehensive history of earth's previous mass extinctions ... "People change the world," Kolbert writes, and vividly presents the science and history of the current crisis. Her extensive travels in researching this book, and her insightful treatment of both the history and the science all combine to make The Sixth Extinction an invaluable contribution to our understanding of present circumstances, just as the paradigm shift she calls for is sorely needed Al Gore, New York Times I tore through Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction with a mix of awe and terror. Her long view of extinction excited my joy in life's diversity - even as she made me aware how many species are currently at risk Dava Sobel, author of Longitude and A More Perfect Heaven Elizabeth Kolbert writes with an aching beauty of the impact of our species on all the other forms of life known in this cold universe. The perspective is at once awe-inspiring, humbling and deeply necessary T.C. Boyle Well-composed snapshots of history, theory and observation that will fascinate, enlighten and appal many readers Guardian Compelling ... It is a disquieting tale, related with rigour and restraint by Kolbert Observer Passionate ... This is the big story of our age. We are living through the historically rare elimination of vast numbers of species. And for the first time, it is our fault ... Uplifting prose about the wonders of nature. But the overwhelming message of this book is as clear as that of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in 1962. We humans have become a geological force in our own right - and, unless we act, the consequences will be devastating Sunday Times It is oddly pleasurable to read Elizabeth's Kolbert's new book, which offers a ramble through mass extinctions, present and past ... A wonderful chapter covers the North Atlantic's once-abundant, flightless great auks ... Wisely, Ms Kolbert refuses to end on an optimistic note Economist While plants and animals can evolve to cope with a hotter world, that will take far too long for humans ... That is ultimately what makes this engaging study scary Scotland on Sunday
Elizabeth Kolbert was a New York Times reporter for fourteen years until she became a staff writer at the New Yorker in 1999. She is the author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: A Frontline Report on Climate Change. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and children. @ElizKolbert