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On Extinction: How We Became Estranged from Nature
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On Extinction: How We Became Estranged from Nature

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  79 ratings  ·  20 reviews
The destruction of nature as a consequence of modern human lifestyles, industries and agriculture is leading to the Earth's sixth great extinction of species. Current estimates suggest that the rate of extinction is now thousands of times that counted in the fossil record before the emergence of modern man. At the same time, human societies themselves are in a cultural ext ...more
Paperback, 339 pages
Published October 1st 2011 by Granta Books (Uk) (first published January 1st 2011)
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3.49  · 
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 ·  79 ratings  ·  20 reviews

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I was really disappointed by this book. From the synopsis on the cover I was expecting to read about how, as a species, we have separated ourselves from nature, the repercussions of this on the natural world and how we can find our way back to living with nature rather than against. Instead I got to read about how modern civilisation has caused the 'extinction' of more traditional ways of life of local peoples the world over with only little nods to the damage we have done to the planet itself. ...more
Jul 24, 2012 rated it really liked it

I thought this book was awesome I imagined it would be so much better but it was still good. Hard to review because I read to make myself have a better general knowledge of time passing through the technology and how things change and old ways become something that people just talk about. It was nice to consider that these things may not be passed down but we can certainly read about them in a book. A great read for an ageing environmentalist and someone who cares about the future.
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What a wonderful, morbidly beautiful work of memoiristic philosophy sprinkled thoroughly with history, earth sciences, etymology, poetics and literary leanings, psychology, and the nature of humanity at its most base levels. Challenger meanders through fen and tundra, gardens and graveyards in sought-after isolation, inhaling the incense of energized melancholy, utilizing a voice that reads like something diaphanous, but is laden with sea-deep thoughts, ruminating on ruination, an entrancing wal ...more
Mar 25, 2013 rated it liked it
If you've ever been frustrated by news about the breakneck pace at which wildlife habitats are being destroyed, you will want to read poet Melanie Challenger's On Extinction, a meditation on humanity's appetite for destruction. Challenger's book resonates nicely with W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz; she devotes a paragraph to him as part of her discussion of Futurism and its unabashed delight in the "beauty" of war. As Challenger interacts with a variety of landscapes and travels to some remote locales ...more
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature
I didn't love this book at first. Actually, I didn't think I was going to make it through the first chapter. Maybe that's because I wasn't entirely sure what the premise was going to be. Anyway, the first chapter was really boring but I'm glad I continued to read.

Once I started to figure it out and get into the flow, all my doubts vanished. Not only is this book beautifully written but the author has an amazing capability to take you from one thought to another and then through a tangent, all wi
Aug 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written book, really draws your thoughts to the impact our behaviour has had on the natural world around us and what we find truly important in life.
Like others, this book was not entirely what I was expecting it to be.

Rather than a wholly philosophical look at modern people's estrangement from nature, this book takes both a wider and more narrow view at the destructiveness of humankind over time. Alternatively this book focuses upon the whaling industry and the mining industry, with brief stopovers for the general way the use of oil has impacted the environment and is changing the Inuit people's way of life. I say this view is narrow, for s
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It’s a basic book, neither delving too deeply into the extinctions of plants and animals, nor the extinctions of cultures and languages. It’s largely an exploration of a sense that it’s time to start paying attention to nature and human beings, how the two intertwine and the consequences of forward progress without looking into existing relationships. I enjoyed the book. The author employs some nice prose and there were passages that brought up interesting points to consider. I’ll admit, I was o ...more
Tina Musich
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book read like a graduate thesis mashed with a Victorian novel in a bad way. The author switches between describing her feelings and surroundings in detail to theoretical and scientific ideas she has learned about. I found it hard to follow and finish.

I also found the book to be repetitive. Roughly half is about the Arctic and Antarctic while the other half is about England. Some more variety in examples would have helped to move the book along. I did learn an awful lot about whale hunting,
Mark Banaszak
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not what I expected but very good. Not only about extinction, but also our nostalgia for things that have disappeared from the Earth. It is very poetic and very researched. I feel guilty now too, because like the author I do not yet have a favorite wildflower. I am thinking the monument plant (Frasera speciosa), which flowers only once in its lifespan of 20-80 years, often coordinated with other monunment plants. Life's unnoticed miracles...
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dutch, thoughts
Not what I expected, but good. It is more reflective and poetic.
Martha Silano
May 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I found myself rushing home to get back to my Kindle to read more of this wonderful book that meanders through different parts of the world, including Cornwall, Antartica, and Northern Canada. Challenger's voice is authoritative yet totally approachable. I felt like she was talking to me ... but then she had also done her research. Highly recommend to those who enjoy an even-handed approach to global warming and its consequences.
May 30, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Wow. How could such a great potential topic come out so lame? Not a single actual rumination of species-wide extinction and the insignificance of humanity. More of a hippy travel writing book saved only from being tossed aside in frustration for the uniqueness of many of the locations which the chapters are written about. To really engage with such a topic seriously check out John N Gray or hell, Lovecraft's stories are better at dealing with these issues, albeit indirectly.
Jul 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
If you are looking for charts, graphs, tables and a lot of data, this is not the book you want. Nonetheless, poet Melanie Challenger beautifullly links her musings on missing wildlife and lost human ways of living. I liked the way she connected observations in ways that fall outside strictly scientific procedure. A thoughtful and worthwhile read.
Karen Douglass
Jun 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
I liked the idea of this book but ultimately I could not get through it. The first half or so was very good, but the whaling stories went on too long and in too much detail. This is an unusual complaint for me, as I often complain of too little detail.
Peter Mcloughlin
Jan 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature
The prose of the book is haunting. It is reflection on worlds lost. The natural world and worlds of the past. It is beautifully written with many allusions to poets, scientists, philosophers, ancient figures. Challenger's breadth of knowledge is staggering. This book was very enjoyable.
Sep 02, 2013 rated it did not like it
Miss Challenger does a fantastic job writing about herself and her feelings about the nature around her, so if you have any interested in getting to know her that might be a great book for you. However, if you are interested in actual scientific writing I would stay away from it.
Thoughtful, elegiac and passionate. Beautifully written, startlingly poetic in places. Neither science nor literature nor travelogue but an intelligent blend.
Lew Stanisława
Feb 26, 2016 rated it did not like it
I'm sure it's a great book for those interested in Challenger's random thoughts. It's just a pity it's not about the extinction nor the enstrangement form Nature.
Sharon Draws
Dec 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Modern day explorer for the end of an era. Poetic capture of the environmental disaster of our times, climate change.
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Melanie Challenger is the author of Galatea, an award-winning first collection of poems, and co-author, with Zlata Filipovic, of Stolen Voices, a history of 20th-century conflict compiled from war diaries.

She read English literature and language at Oxford University and lives in the Scottish Highlands. She has received a British Council Darwin Award for her work.