The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

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The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

by Elizabeth Kolbert

Henry Holt and Co. | February 11, 2014 | Hardcover

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History is rated 5 out of 5 by 1.

A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful 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. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a 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 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.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 336 pages, 9.51 × 6.18 × 1.12 in

Published: February 11, 2014

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0805092994

ISBN - 13: 9780805092998

Found in: Science and Nature

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read! Very informative, well written, easy reading. I loved every page of this book, the content was very interesting and captivating. Really opens your eyes to the past, present, and future effect humans have on the Earth.
Date published: 2014-09-20

– More About This Product –

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

by Elizabeth Kolbert

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 336 pages, 9.51 × 6.18 × 1.12 in

Published: February 11, 2014

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0805092994

ISBN - 13: 9780805092998

Read from the Book

Prologue Beginnings, it’s said, are apt to be shadowy. So it is with this story, which starts with the emergence of a new species maybe two hundred thousand years ago. The species does not yet have a name—nothing does—but it has the capacity to name things. As with any young species, this one’s position is precarious. Its numbers are small, and its range restricted to a slice of eastern Africa. Slowly its population grows, but quite possibly then it contracts again—some would claim nearly fatally—to just a few thousand pairs. The members of the species are not particularly swift or strong or fertile. They are, however, singularly resourceful. Gradually they push into regions with different climates, different predators, and different prey. None of the usual constraints of habitat or geography seem to check them. They cross rivers, plateaus, mountain ranges. In coastal regions, they gather shellfish; farther inland, they hunt mammals. Everywhere they settle, they adapt and innovate. On reaching Europe, they encounter creatures very much like themselves, but stockier and probably brawnier, who have been living on the continent far longer. They interbreed with these creatures and then, by one means or another, kill them off. The end of this affair will turn out to be exemplary. As the species expands its range, it crosses paths with animals twice, ten, and even twenty times its size: huge cats, towering bears, turtles as big as elephants, slot
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Table of Contents

Author’s Note     xi

Prologue     1

I: The Sixth Extinction     4

II: The Mastodon’s Molars     23

III: The Original Penguin     47 

IV: The Luck of the Ammonites     70

V: Welcome to the Anthropocene     92

VI: The Sea Around Us     111

VII: Dropping Acid     125

VIII: The Forest and the Trees     148

IX: Islands on Dry Land     173

X: The New Pangaea     193

XI: The Rhino Gets an Ultrasound     217

XII: The Madness Gene     236

XIII: The Thing with Feathers     259



Acknowledgments     273

Notes     277

Selected Bibliography     293

Photo/Illustration Credits     305

Index     307

From the Publisher

A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful 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. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a 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 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.

About the Author

Elizabeth Kolbert is a staff writer at The New Yorker. She is the author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. She lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts, with her husband and children.

Editorial Reviews

"Fascinating."— USA Today "[An] excellent new book… The Sixth Extinction is the kind of book that helps us recognize the actual planet we live upon." — New York Review of Books "Surprisingly breezy, entirely engrossing, and frequently entertaining... Kolbert is a masterful, thought-provoking reporter." — The Boston Globe "Thorough and fascinating . . . Kolbert is an economical and deft explainer of the technical, and about as intrepid a reporter as they come . . . Her reporting is meticulous." — Harper’s "Riveting… It is not possible to overstate the importance of Kolbert’s book. Her prose is lucid, accessible and even entertaining as she reveals the dark theater playing out on our globe."— San Francisco Chronicle "A fascinating and frightening excursion… Kolbert presents powerful cases to bring her point home."— The Washington Post "Your view of the world will be fundamentally changed… Kolbert is an astute observer, excellent explainer and superb synthesizer, and even manages to find humor in her subject matter." —The Seattle Times "What''s exceptional about Kolbert''s writing is the combination of scientific rigor and wry humor that keeps you turning the pages." — National Geographic "Beautifully written. An excellent book." —Jon Stewart, The Daily Show "[Kolbert] makes a page-turner out of even the most sober and scientifically demanding aspects of extinction. Combining a lucid, stead
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