336 pages, 9.49 × 6.27 × 1.11 in
February 11, 2014
Henry Holt and Co.
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 0805092994
ISBN - 13: 9780805092998
Read from the Book
PrologueBeginnings, 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, sloths that stand fifteen feet tall. These
Table of Contents
Author's Note xi?
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??
Selected Bibliography 293?
Photo/Illustration Credits 305?
From the Publisher
WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW'S 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST
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.
[The Sixth Extinction] is a wonderful book, and it makes very clear that big, abrupt changes can happen; they're not outside the realm of possibility. They have happened before, they can happen again. -President Barack Obama"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"[Kolbe