Andrea McDowell's Reviews > The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
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it was amazing
bookshelves: green, science, climate

As with all of Elizabeth Kolbert's writing, it is beautifully written, compelling, meticulously researched, well structured, and absolutely terrifying.

The Sixth Extinction (which is happening now--you can be forgiven for not knowing that, since it is so abysmally reported on) is the tale of the many and varied ways humans are causing this latest mass extinction event. They're all here: prehistorical and modern-day overhunting; transmission of invasive species; habitat fragmentation; climate change; ocean acidification. In keeping with the evidence, though very much against the preferences of human psychology, the book ends on a despairing note. While humans do expend a great deal of energy in identifying and saving particular endangered species when they are particularly beautiful or otherwise beloved, that is in no way up to the scale of what's required, and it is very difficult to see how this could be turned around in time.

From page 214: "'As a brief aside,' he went on, 'I read this news story the other day. A place called the Vermont Center for Ecostudies has set up this Web site. People can take a photo of any and all organisms in Vermont and get them registered on this site. If I had read that a few years ago, I would have laughed. I would have said, "You're going to have people sending in a picture of a pine tree?" And now, after what's happened with the little browns [bats], I just wish they had done it earlier." (This after a chapter describing the collapse of bat populations from White Nose Syndrome, and bat researchers revisiting former caves where bats numbered in the hundreds of thousands, now not able to find any, walking through the empty caverns on a carpet of bat carcasses.)

I wish everyone would read this, or at least become more informed about it; not because there's anything we can do by becoming more informed (there almost certainly isn't: within the next hundred years many, and likely most, species will simply cease to exist). But because an event of this significance and caused by us deserves to be marked and mourned while it is happening. A biotic Holocaust is underway all around us, every day, species and families of species being shoved into gas ovens as fast as we can manage it; and outside, we celebrate sporting victories and royal babies and new gizmos to buy. I can think of no more severe condemnation of human nature.
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Reading Progress

September 23, 2014 – Started Reading
September 23, 2014 – Shelved
September 23, 2014 –
page 2
0.6% "Testing the efficacy of this year's Sewing Hibernation. Expect random depressing updates on progress of current mass extinction event."
September 26, 2014 –
page 67
19.94% "Yep. Humans not really coming off so well."
September 26, 2014 –
page 100
September 28, 2014 –
page 182
54.17% "Now, see, *this* is horror.\n \n Area X would be (correctly) seen as paradise next to this real-world account."
September 28, 2014 – Shelved as: green
September 28, 2014 – Finished Reading
January 15, 2016 – Shelved as: science
August 21, 2018 – Shelved as: climate

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Judith (new)

Judith Klassen Excellent review.

Andrea McDowell Thanks, Judith. :)

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