The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

by Elizabeth Kolbert
4.3 48

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The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
RichardSutton More than 1 year ago
Towards the end of author Kolbert’s new book, The Sixth Extinction, she mentions that in life, as in mutual funds, past performance carries no guarantees. What I can guarantee readers who appreciate our planet’s diversity and our own species insufferable arrogance, is a thought-provoking, deeply moving reading experience. This is my first exposure to Ms. Kolbert’s prose and to say I am now a fan doesn’t tell the half of it. First, the organization of this project and the resulting book makes it accessible even to those who might scoff at the ideas it contains. She travels around the globe, reporting first-hand on examples of past extinctions, their causes and on lives currently stressed to the point of disappearance. Having seen examples of this in my own back-yard over the past ten years or so, I found the subject particularly interesting. I also was carried along on a crest through her method of tackling a difficult subject with good humor while illustrating her point in such a way that the heavy sadness that similar work often provides, was made tolerable. Finishing the book on a slightly hopeful note helped a great deal without effacing the stark, terrible truths she has so lovingly presented. I felt moved to do what I can, from this point, to help reduce my own careless damage to other lives in our fragile biosphere. I would expect that there will be many who will feel this way after reading this important book. Science readers will also appreciate her meticulous footnotes and references to the research she followed through her writing. I’m sure that many of these projects could use additional funding help and would encourage all readers to share what they can to enlarge the spirit and effectiveness of this on-going work.
Open-mindedIN More than 1 year ago
Written in an engaging style as the author travels many locations around the world interviewing experts in various fields of study. Presents current theories regarding the five previous mass extinctions. Then offers examples of the rapid changes in our current environment and the important role humans play in the evolutionary changes to come.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very important book which should be read by everyone. It is well-researched and well-written, easy to read. I  gave it to my adult daughters for Christmas and I hope they,  their spouses, and their children will read it. I  worry about what kind of life my descendants will have, if the human race doesn't  soon acknowledge that the planet is in trouble and we humans are largely to blame.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I greatly enjoyed Elizabeth Kolbert’s , The Sixth Extinction. I enjoyed reading about the facts, events, and people she profiled in her book. Her writing style kept me interested in every word. She has lead me think that currently were are in the process of a sixth mass extinction. And not just one for which we seem to be responsible, but one that we may not survive. Ms. Kolbert begins by surveying the five historic mass-extinctions we know of, and the scientists who led us to our knowledge of those events. Ms. Kolbert starts her discussions of historic events with discussions of facts discovered by a variety of modern scientists in fields of study ranging from fossils to frogs, rainforest plants, bats, and ocean acidity. They all seem to have reached the conclusion from evidence in their fields that our world is undergoing a sixth mass-extinction event, one either entirely caused by humans. Though Ms. Kolbert establishes that mass-extinctions, even abrupt ones, have long been a part of our world, and that there is even fairly convincing evidence that humans have caused prior mass-extinctions on earth. She also establishes that there is no guarantee that we will survive this one. Ms. Kolbert and the scientists she profiles believe that we are changing our world, its ecosystems, and its species at a very quick rate. And since we still don’t understand all the ways in which we depend on the world’s plants and animals, we don’t know how the loss of any one ecosystem or any one species will ultimately impact us.But this book isn't all darkand depressing. She gives us hope by saying that this sixth mass-extinction is also unique in that we are finally advanced enough to realize what we are doing before it is too late. And she points out that we may still have the ability to stop, or at least limit, what we may unknowingly have started. Though it’s already too late for some species, it doesn’t have to be too late for us. But that requires more people learning about what is going on and deciding to do their share in help. I highly recommend Ms. Kolbert’s eye-opening and entertaining book as a good place to start.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author presents information from several areas of looking at the world and opens one's eyes to possibilities in the natural world. She does not tie the information into a neat little bow and tell the reader what to think. She presents information in an intelligent manner and let's the reader ponder because there are no easy answers. Very enjoyable read. It expanded my mental horizons. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in science, geology, and humanity.
susanibird More than 1 year ago
Kolbert’s examination of life as we know it (and as it might soon be) hooks the reader from its first sentences as she describes the shadowy introduction of, two hundred thousand years ago, a new species.  Through its resourcefulness, this species manages to flourish, and eventually touch all corners of the globe, events that lead us to where we find ourselves today, living on a planet forever impacted by that species, man.   Kolbert’s ability to clarify scientific complexities for those of us unfamiliar with that realm is a gift she utilizes throughout the 13 powerful chapters that each address a species, some which no longer exist, some which may soon die out or become extinct.   The Sixth Extinction is filled with intrigue, mystery, and explanations of why our planet—and the creatures who depend upon it—is experiencing the throes it presently is.  Like an exceptional college professor, Kolbert brings to life events of epochs long past, and helps the reader integrate facts and theories to understand the journey our world has experienced.   Kolbert hopes that readers will “come away with an appreciation of the truly extraordinary moment in which we live;” I can’t imagine the reader who wouldn’t.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've been loving Kolbert's New Yorker articles for years, but in The Sixth Extinction she's outdone herself. The research, the many examples, and the prose make for a compelling read. She writes not just of "climate change", but of the irreversible effect our species has had on the planet as we evolved. This is a story that needs to be understood if we as a species are to have a future on this planet. We can't undo what has gone before, but can we behave better? Will we?
Katyperk More than 1 year ago
Very often we hear of species extinctions; an extinction here, an extinction there.  So often, in fact, it is taken for the sad, but normal course of things – What a shame, oh my, should I be a “save the Elephant”, “save the Tiger” or “save the Whales” person.   In this book Kolbert informs of extinctions not here, not there, but everywhere, in this, our Anthropocene epoch.  She gathers the puzzle pieces from exclusively scientific data and creates a panoramic and cohesive picture of the future of the Earth’s biodiversity. The Sixth Extinction should be required reading for everyone.  It should be handed out with the plastic bags at Walmart.  You don’t need a dictionary to read it, it’s not necessary to be a scientist to understand and appreciate the truth of the matter.  It makes for fascinating reading.  I could build an entire year’s Ecology curriculum on Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, and I wish I was in the classroom again so I could do so. In the last chapter Kolbert quotes Stanford ecologist Paul Ehrilich:  IN PUSHING OTHER SPECIES TO EXTINCTION, HUMANITY IS BUSY SAWING OFF THE LIMB ON WHICH IT PERCHES.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I truly wonder what it will take for us to wake up globally and realize the consequences of our fossil fuel addictions. This is simply one more way to read and understand what we are doing not just to ourselves, but to generations still to come. This is one more way to ask whether humo sapiens as a species will make it. The planet will.
Anonymous 23 days ago
"The Sixth Extinction" tells the story of the effect of Humans on all the rest of Earth's species. It is full of information and personal experience, and as uncondemning as the author can bring herself to be. A good read and a useful reminder that no one can claim to be above the change in the world. I knew of the amphibian die-off, for example, but I didn't know the cause had been found. I'm very glad I read it.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Extremely well written, engaging and illuminating. Truly added to my understanding of the world.
Anonymous 10 months ago
A thought-provoking, well-researched, and well-written book. I bought several copies for family members already!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For the most part. This is a subject I've always been fascinated with and enoyed the progression of the history of extinctions. Since I don't have a science background, there were some parts of the book and specific chapters that were a bit heady and too math oriented for me. I skipped through those quickly. My rating reflects that and should be considered by any reader who lacks a good science/math background. I generally agree with the conclusions.....that humankind, since it's appearance on this planet, may have contributed more to the extinction of many species than any of the other causes. Good book overall.
chwjmu114 More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books of all time. Seriously. This should be required reading for everyone, as we are stripping this planet faster than it can handle, and we and all species will pay the price. However, only humans have the power to change it. She didn't go into it as much as I'd like, but the animal agriculture industries are to blame - one of the many reasons I now stay away from animal products. We can change the world, but people need to be aware first.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The best thing I can say about a book on a subject that interests me but where I'm no expert is "This taught me something new." So here it is: This book taught me new things. In well written, clear prose the author provides a grand tour of how extinctions have happened on our planet, and how the one currently in progress (caused by us humans) compares. Well worth reading for anyone interested in the topic.
kendukie More than 1 year ago
Excellent story.Very factual and it really makes you think.....what are we doing to our only home, earth? I wish it was required reading all of our politicians.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have long felt like humans are like Earth's parasites and, reading this book has sort of given confirmation to that belief.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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legbone More than 1 year ago
written in such a manner that all could understand; enjoyable many events are taking place and now you can understand why
Orel70 More than 1 year ago
Slow read but contains some useful information.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago