The Sixth Extinction: Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind

Overview

Richard Leakey, One Of The World's  Foremost Experts On Man's Evolutionary Past, Now Turns  His Eye To The Future And Doesn't Like What He  Sees.

To the philosophical the  earth is eternal, while the human race -- presumptive  keeper of the world's history -- is a mere speck  in the rich stream of life. It is known that  nothing upon Earth is forever; geography, climate, and  plant and animal life ...

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Overview

Richard Leakey, One Of The World's  Foremost Experts On Man's Evolutionary Past, Now Turns  His Eye To The Future And Doesn't Like What He  Sees.

To the philosophical the  earth is eternal, while the human race -- presumptive  keeper of the world's history -- is a mere speck  in the rich stream of life. It is known that  nothing upon Earth is forever; geography, climate, and  plant and animal life are all subject to radical  change. On five occasions in the past, catastrophic  natural events have caused mass extinctions on  Earth. But today humans stand alone, in dubious  distinction, among Earth's species: Homo  Sapiens possesses the ability to destroy  entire species at will, to trigger the sixth  extinction in the history of life. In The Sixth  Extinction, Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin  consider how the grand sprawl of human life is  inexorably wreaking havoc around the world. The  authors of Origins and  Origins Reconsidered, unimpeachable  authorities on the human fossil record, turn their  attention to the most uncharted anthropological territory  of all: the future, and man's role in defining it.  According to Leakey and Lewin, man and his  surrounding species are end products of history and  chance. Now, however, humans have the unique  opportunity to recognize their influence on the global  ecosystem, and consciously steer the outcome in order  to avoid triggering an unimaginable upheaval.

From the Hardcover edition.

In The Sixth Extinction, Leakey and Lewin consider how the grand sprawl of human life is inexorably wreaking havoc around the world. The authors of Origins and Origins Reconsidered, unimpeachable authorities on the human fossil record, turn their attention to the most uncharted anthropoligical territory of all--the future, and man's role in defining it. Photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Claiming that humanity is on the verge of causing a massive extinction of other species, the authors argue for a drastic change in the ways in which we impact on the environment. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Paleoanthropologist Leakey and coauthor Lewin (Origins Reconsidered, LJ 9/1/92) examine biology's traditional viewpoints, which maintain a linear progression from simple to complex species development. In this scenario, survival of the fittest means success, and species extinction indicates failure. The authors also present the current trends in evolutionary science theory suggesting that the world is shaped by mass extinctions (natural catastrophes have caused five) instead of natural selection and that the shape and behavior of biological communities is driven by chaotic interaction rather than the simplistic balance-of-nature concept. Leakey and Lewin argue that Homo sapiens is the result of many chance events in evolution rather than the foreordained culmination of evolutionary excellence. Unfortunately, our self-awareness and mental capacity has given us the dubious capability of triggering a sixth extinction, destroying entire species through overhunting and habitat destruction. As the only sentient creature among animals, we have the duty to protect all of Earth's species. The authors present a powerful message based on years of observation and fieldwork. Highly recommended for all collections.-Gloria Maxwell, Kansas Cty. P.L., Kan.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385468091
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/1996
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 670,233
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 A Personal Perspective 1
2 Life's Salient Mystery 13
3 The Mainspring of Evolution 25
4 The Big Five 38
5 Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck? 59
6 Homo sapiens, the Pinnacle of Evolution? 77
7 Endless Forms Most Beautiful 99
8 Value in Diversity 124
9 Stability and Chaos in Ecology 149
10 Human Impacts of the Past 171
11 The Modern Elephant Story 195
12 An Accident of History 223
13 The Sixth Extinction 232
14 Does It Matter? 246
Notes 255
Index 263
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