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
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. But this time around, the cataclysm is us.
In The Sixth Extinction, two-time National Magazine award winner and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in a half-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 a concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in French Revolutionary Paris through to 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.
About the Author
Elizabeth Kolbert was a New York Times reporter for fourteen years until she became a staff writer at the New Yorker in 1999. Her three-part series on global warming, 'The Climate of Man', won the 2006 National Magazine Award for Public Interest, the 2005 American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Award and the 2006 National Academies Communication Award. It was from this series of articles that Field Notes from a Catastrophe: A Front-line Report on Climate Change. She lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with her husband and children.
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 Kolbert has not only grasped the enormity of what we are unleashing, but can present it in a way that even the average human with a short historical attention span can grasp. Read this book Peter Forbes, Independent Kolbert is a witty, deft writer with an eye for vivid colour. She takes us from sun-blistered desert islands on the Great Barrier Reef to the sopping Peruvian jungle ... Hers is a deadly message, delivered in elegant prose, and we can't afford to ignore it Philip Hoare, Sunday Telegraph a book that can be dipped into or read from cover to cover. Biologist
Number Of Pages: 336
Published: 1st March 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.3 x 2.7
Weight (kg): 0.52
Edition Number: 1