The Sixth Extinction

Elizabeth Kolbert     Recommended by Alan    

Although it is eloquently and dispassionately argued, Kolbert’s new book about the massive extinctions happening around the world makes depressing reading. Mostly because it is so clearly alarming and yet humans for whatever reason aren’t reacting urgently. This seeming unfathomable counter-intuitive – lies quietly at the centre of this book.

It took thousands of years for mammoths and giant ground sloths to become extinct. For geologists, these millennia are considered “geologically instantaneous”. We are witnessing a similar mass extinction in a lifetime.

The last time this many species went extinct this quickly was 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the earth causing a long global winter. Human impact over the last 100 years is thus the equivalent of a similar meteorological collision. Will we be able to slow the rate of extinction? Do we care? What will the cascading effects of mass species collapse be?

Very interesting book as much for its scientific cataloguing of extinctions, as for what it says about human nature.


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