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The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
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Book Club 2014 > September 2014 - Sixth Extinction

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message 1: by Betsy, co-mod (new) - rated it 4 stars

Betsy | 1659 comments Mod
For September 2014 we will be reading The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.

Please use this thread to post questions, comments, and reviews at any time.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 364 comments Excellent - my library has this one.


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 260 comments I started reading this today. It's well-written and the subject is very interesting. I can see now why so many professional scientists as well as general science readers are recommending this. Even Jon Stewart raved about it!


Jacquelin Arndt I started reading this and like how the subject is readable, I thought the writing might get too scientific or jargon laced. This is my first attempt to actually do the book club. How does it work?


message 5: by David (last edited Aug 08, 2014 10:02AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

David Rubenstein | 859 comments Mod
Jacquelin,
Get a copy of the book, read it, and discuss it here. Bring up any questions you might have. Critique or comment on the book. Whatever you'd like to say about it. Our discussions for The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History will start "in earnest" in September.

Sometime around the 20th of each month, we open up a thread for nominations for the next book-of-the-month. We take about ten nominations, and then we have a poll, to decide which of the nominations will become a future book-of-the-month. We announce the winner of the poll by the end of the month, giving everybody a month to acquire the book, and then another month to read and discuss it. Of course, there is no real deadline for the discussion--it can go on for a long time.


message 6: by Betsy, co-mod (new) - rated it 4 stars

Betsy | 1659 comments Mod
The discussion can actually start at any time, but since most people are reading other things too, it usually doesn't pick up any steam until well after the beginning of the target month.

So, if you want to post a question or something now, that's fine.


message 7: by Re (new) - rated it 5 stars

Re Heubel | 22 comments I am surprised that there is not more public reaction to this book. "Ho hum, mankind is destroying much of life on earth - terrestrial and sea life. And, of course global warming is hoax cooked up by evil, grant-grubbing scientist over the past 150 years."

Is America science illiterate?


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 260 comments Re wrote: "I am surprised that there is not more public reaction to this book. "Ho hum, mankind is destroying much of life on earth - terrestrial and sea life. And, of course global warming is hoax cooked up ..."

I think it's a combination of things, mostly psychological.

One thing is there is nothing to impel 'direct action'.

If a house is burning down right NOW, the neighbors, knowing, for example, an old lady lives in the house, will get emotional, scream cry and carry on. Some will try to break in, some will get their hoses, some will run around. Or if you see a baby buggy fall on train tracks, dozens of the able-bodied jump down and grab the baby and the buggy.

Or, for the opposite example, the polar bears will maybe be extinct in 20 years: people can't jump into a boat or plane, pick up all the polar bears NOW, move them to a safe place; or they can't pay someone or give to a charity for a safe haven for polar bears right NOW.

For another thing, tomorrow brings new top stories and catastrophes (famine! Iraq! iSIS! African and South American refugees! Ebola! Shark fins!) Not only is there a constant drumbeat of disaster stories overwhelming all media every hour every day, there is no immediate thing average people can do - only charities or NGO's or environmental organizations.

Personal household habits, like recycling, only work if it is as painless and free and without effort as possible to make it.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 364 comments "Is America science-illiterate?"

Yeah, a significant section of the voting public is, which is dangerous, as it enables unscrupulous politicans to embrace scientifically foolish positions without electoral repercussion.


message 10: by Robbower (new)

Robbower | 50 comments I just don't understand this way of thinking. I daily consider my consumption of fossil fuels, and my impact on the global environment. My eight-year-old car is EPA rated at 25mpg highway, and I regularly acheive 40mpg. It has 65,000 miles - about 8k miles per year. Every time I get into the car, I ask myself 'Is this trip necesary?' I walk to the Post Office, the bank, and the grocery store. The idea that 'EVIL CORPORATIONS' cause pollution and global warming is an obvious sham that we believe because it relieves us of individual responsibility. Most enviromental problems are the result of millions or even billions of INDIVIDUALS acting irresponsibly. EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!!


message 11: by David (last edited Aug 22, 2014 04:53PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

David Rubenstein | 859 comments Mod
Robbower, how do you manage 40 mpg with your car?


message 12: by Robbower (new)

Robbower | 50 comments I read an article in Mother Earth News that inspired me to try several techniques. The article highlighted a man who, with a stock, unmodified Toyota Corolla, acheived 1287 miles on a single tank of gas... about 87MPG. His main tips: Looking ahead. For example, a traffic light that has been green for some time, is almost certainly going to turn red before you get there. Coast up to the light. NEVER continue to accelerate toward a stop sign or traffic light stop that you can anticipate. Keep to the speed limit. If your personal driving style is 'jack-rabbit' (gun in and brake) use cruise control. Determine your car's optimum cruising speed, and try to maintain it. (NO commercially produced vehicle has an optimum cruising speed above 60mph). Play the hills (gravity assist). Light touch on the accelerator. THESE ARE ALL COMMON SENSE TECHNIQUES! Last week I drove from Mansfield, OH to York, PA and back. On the way out, I used US Route 30 (local, moderate traffic road). I got 38mpg. On the way back, I was in a hurry, and used the PA Turnpike (speed limit 70mph) and got only 32mpg. I saved 45 minutes on the faster turnpike... 6hours, 45minutes vs. 7hours, 30minutes. I used my saved 45 minutes by watching inane TV to recover from the added stress of the construction-and-traffic laden turnpike.


message 13: by Re (new) - rated it 5 stars

Re Heubel | 22 comments I have started to buy locally produced food at an outdoor market. I now eat little meat - no beef or pork. I use recyclable grocery bags not plastic. It is disheartening to see the number of oversized vehicles SUVs, pick-up trucks being driven. I am hoping gasoline will go up in price $4 or $4.50 - to force people into economic driving.


message 14: by J. (new)

J. Gowin | 21 comments Re wrote: "I have started to buy locally produced food at an outdoor market. I now eat little meat - no beef or pork. I use recyclable grocery bags not plastic. It is disheartening to see the number of ove..."

Increasing the price of petroleum based fuels, on their own, will accomplish very little. While it will cause a short term decrease in use, the economy will adjust to a higher cost of living, and usage will return to former levels. Increasing prices incentivises increased production.

On a side note, your locally produced salad is still highly dependant on petroleum. Oil is in the fuel and fertilizers. So you'll still feel the pinch as you are strolling to and from the market.

Any solution requires that both sides of the equation be in balance. To accomplish this, one must do more than limit supply. One must also eliminate demand.

So the race to save the world, is the race to end the industrialized world's petroleum addiction. The stakes are awe inspiring, not only will the new technologies' developers have saved mankind, they will also claim economic dominion. And they will have defunded ISIS, al-quaeda, Russia, Iran, and many other political problems annoying the western world.

The race for the future has already started. Where do you think your horse is running?


message 15: by Re (new) - rated it 5 stars

Re Heubel | 22 comments With gas prices, I would follow the European example and make gas prices so high that driving is a special thing - almost a luxuary. And force people to use mass transit.

The cars we have today are extremely inefficient: they are a ton or two tons of metal and rubber to transport a 150 pound person. Maddeningly and outrageously inefficient - and environmentally destructive. Electric motors are much more efficient than internal combustion engine, I have read.

Rail transport is more efficient than cars or trucks. Less friction, metal wheels on metal track than rubber wheels on concrete.

I didn't buy lettuce - I bought tomatoes and blueberries grown in my state - not shipped from California or Mexico.


message 16: by J. (new)

J. Gowin | 21 comments Re wrote: "With gas prices, I would follow the European example and make gas prices so high that driving is a special thing - almost a luxuary. And force people to use mass transit.

The cars we have today a..."


Sounds simple, but is it?

Transfering traffic to mass transit systems has a lot of upsides, in areas where those systems are already in place. But what about the population that lives in rural or even lightly populated suburban areas? Us hicks don't tend to have ready access to mass transit. If we all lived and worked on the farm that wouldn't be an issue, but it turns out that most of us drive to work at manufacturing concerns. (Companies like to build factories where the land is cheap.) Noone will pass a bond issue for commuter rail in the sticks, so that means lightly scheduled buses. (Hope Jim doesn't have to work late.) A signifigant rise in gas prices (presumably from taxes) in this situation would have a devastating impact on thousands of working class folks. And the price hike would have no negative effect on nations which elected to not heavily tax fuel. (The People's Republic of China actually subsidizes gasolene.)

This will not be solved simply. Our entire society is based on petroleum. Any strategy with a real chance of success will require a global technological paradigm shift.


message 17: by Robbower (new)

Robbower | 50 comments This exchange seems to be following either/or lines of reasoning. On the one hand, huge problems seem to require huge, sweeping solutions. On the other hand, billions of people each making modest adjustments in life choices adds up. Aren't our environmental and resource problems likely to need comprehensive solutions, both on the level of governments and big businesses, and on the level of individual attitudes? Personally, I have never understood positions that seems to say 'Since there is little that I can do as an individual, I will do nothing.'


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 364 comments Psychologically speaking, however, it is indeed a fairly common reaction.


message 19: by J. (new)

J. Gowin | 21 comments Susanna - Censored by GoodReads wrote: "Psychologically speaking, however, it is indeed a fairly common reaction."

If I am advocating sitting back and watching the world burn, why did I give so much weight to the rewards of success, as outlined in message 14?

The situation requires more than the sums of voluntary individual actions will provide. Let us suppose that the entire human race were able to cut there individual carbon foot prints by 50%, with no increases evident in developing countries or from population growth. What would that buy us? One century maybe two?

Conservation is a requisite virtue, which must be paired with pressure to actively pursue new energy sources.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 364 comments I wasn't suggesting *you* were advocating that.

I was simply suggesting what is a common psychological reaction.

Now, y'all have fun with this thread, as I'm not here for an argument. See you elsewhere.


Avid Reader and Geek Girl (avidreaderandgeekgirl) I just started it and like it so far.


message 22: by Re (new) - rated it 5 stars

Re Heubel | 22 comments J. "Transfering traffic to mass transit systems has a lot of upsides, in areas where those systems are already in place. But what about the population that lives in rural or even lightly populated suburban areas? Us hicks don't tend to have ready access to mass transit. If we all lived and worked on the farm that wouldn't be an issue, but it turns out that most of us drive to work at manufacturing concerns. (Companies like to build factories where the land is cheap.)"

I don't think we will have much choice in the matter. Fuel prices will be high and probably go higher as human population increases and oil becomes ever more scarce. People will have to consider, carefully, where they want to live and the costs of transportation.

This is already happening in my state with road maintenance: the conservatives here refuse to raise taxes - the gas tax - on ideological dogma in order to fix the state roads. County and township road budgets are maxed out too. Townships in my county are letting the paved roads revert to gravel because they no money to repave them.

Rail travel is so much more efficient than car, bus or truck. Less friction etc..

As well the internal combustion engine is quite inefficient compared to the electric motor. Much friction and heat loss.


message 23: by Robbower (new)

Robbower | 50 comments I very much agree. We often think and act as if we are helpless in our life choices. As though, 'I must consume huge amounts of fossil fuels, because I live here, and work there.' BULLS**T. We each make these choices, and they bear re-thinking. Back in the 90's, I was driving from far suburbs to the city for a high salary. Until I realized that I was spending a huge amount of my attractive salary on commuting and related employment costs. I moved to a small town, got a job with a salary about 1/3 of what I had been making, with housing cost about 1/2 of what it had been and almost zero commuting and child care costs. The result? Increased disposable income. Huge amounts of leisure time with my kids. Time to start a small, home-based business. And perhaps most importantly, a hugely reduced pollution and carbon footprint.


message 24: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Cunningham (dcunning11235) Robbower wrote: "I very much agree. We often think and act as if we are helpless in our life choices. As though, 'I must consume huge amounts of fossil fuels, because I live here, and work there.' BULLS**T. We each..."

I somewhat agree in spirit, but with two large reservations.

The first is around the idea that we all simply choose the life we have.

This is not entirely true. If you are living e.g. in the 'urburbs' (a word I made up, but I mean those areas of cities that have been passed over by dense development but are still incorporated into the city; or that have had reverse development due to massive decline a la Detroit) or just plain 'ghetto' and driving 10 or 20 or 30 miles to work in your POS, fuming, 20+ year old car, "Just get up and move! Jesus, why do you hate the planet?" isn't really going to help. I pick that as one (generalized) example, but there are many other situations. I commend you for your choices, but right in your own retelling of it you mention one reason you were able to do this: you had a high income, and a high *salary* at that. This indicates a fair amount about the choices you had available, including those you could work to make happen (I'm not saying you didn't make sacrifices, work hard, etc.)

Secondly, the perennial question (or what should be a perennial question), "What if everyone does this?"

So... what is everyone moves to the exurbs, small towns, county? I mean, okay, clearly this isn't going to happen, but what if say 50% of people do? Over what span of time? It has taken hundreds of years to concentrate as much of our population in cities as we now have, and that process was fairly slow and organic. Even under that slow regime, the effect on places left behind was (and is) often devastating, and the effects on cities was as well. We can't really expect that a reversal of that process will (a) take less than several hundred years (b) not devastate cities (a la Detroit) and (c) greatly harm large areas of 'the country' and 'small town USA.'

I'm not claiming that either of these should (or, if it comes to it, could) stop a population flow back to small towns. Just scratching the surface of what that would actually mean, as I have here, should point out that there is *so* much more to it than just saying, "Jeez, everyone, stop being so selfish and move already."

And this doesn't even get into the debate (or fact) that inhabitants of ~dense~ cities actually have smaller carbon footprints than most people living in rural areas... :)


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 260 comments "In fact, the American mastodon vanished around thirteen thousand years ago. It's demise was part of a wave of disappearances that has come to be known as the megafauna extinction. This wave coincided with the spread of modern humans and, increasingly, is understood to have been a result of it. "

The above is from the book.

Then, a fully documented, intentional near extinction, the American Buffalo: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history...

Then there are the wolves are considered unnecessary to exist by most common herders and farmers, who continue to illegally kill them.

Not to mention the hunting 'sanctuaries', which stock wild animals, intentionally caught or raised in cages, which are staked out for awhile, and paying customers on vacation are provided a map, gps device and a guide, so that they can walk up to the tied down animal, for example, a tiger, and shoot it dead. Then the hunting farm skins it and gives the coat and/or preserved head to the 'hunter' to take home.

Then today, I have been reading about the Passenger Pigeon everywhere on the news. They are quite ridiculously mournful.

The book (I'm 20% through) is mentioning many animal extinctions, caused by our love of killing animals, sometimes for food. I know about the plastic bits being used by animals for food, nests, wooing females, etc. unintentionally poisoning themselves. Not to mention the disappearing frogs and bees, possibly by our use of pesticides and moving things (us, invasive species and germs) around by our explorations/entrepreneurial spirits in planes, boats and trains. The Boa constrictors brought as pets to Florida, now destroying birds and other indigenous fauna.

Warming of the Earth and CO2 is the least of it. Electric car development is a pathetic response, in my opinion. Really? Walking or buses or bicycles is going to fix Humanity's onslaught of the environment, including flora, fauna on the Earth?

I cannot believe a Sixth Extinction can be stopped, whatever the suggestions or conversation, such as above in this thread.


message 26: by Robbower (new)

Robbower | 50 comments Daniel wrote: "Robbower wrote: "I very much agree. We often think and act as if we are helpless in our life choices. As though, 'I must consume huge amounts of fossil fuels, because I live here, and work there.' ..."

I understand the practical concerns for many. But historically, it has always been the poorest in society who picked up and moved. The Okies who were destitute due to the Dust Bowl. The Irish who were starving in the potato famine. Today's Mexican poor who risk everything to come to the USA. The Pilgrims, ditto. The list goes on and on.

And, by the way, despite my good salary, I was nearly destitute when I made my move, thanks to an expensive child custody battle.

Perhaps that's the key. Those who really have limited options AND gumption do something about it.

BTW... if all of the USA's urban populations moved to rural and small town areas, there would still be only 34 people per sq. kilometer... about the population density of the State of Kansas.

And, yes, if everyone reduced their energy consumption (walking, biking, etc.) the impact would be HUGE!!! Remember, industry only pollutes at our (individuals') behest! ALL pollution and other environmental impacts come from you and me.


message 27: by J. (new)

J. Gowin | 21 comments Robbower wrote: "Daniel wrote: "Robbower wrote: "I very much agree. We often think and act as if we are helpless in our life choices. As though, 'I must consume huge amounts of fossil fuels, because I live here, an..."

A population with, "limited options AND gumption", is the most dangerous thing in the world. If you don't believe me, then ask Nicolas II or Louis XVI. Oh wait, you can't ask them.


message 28: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Cunningham (dcunning11235) Robbower wrote: "I understand the practical concerns for many. But historically, it has always been the poorest in society who picked up and moved."

Except for those who didn't and don't. Millions of urban poor stay right where they are, generation after generation. Millions have been displaced in e.g. Syria, but millions more have stayed behind. True, perhaps if such numbers could be collected, we would find the very poorest moved (first). Or perhaps we would find it was the youngest. Or mostly women and children. But what is clear is that, while it is arguably true that having nothing left to loose makes it easier to move, many people "choose" not to. I quote choose because we tend to slip that word in as a verbal crutch and forget that what we actually know, what we actually have evidence for, is that "many people *do* move," and, "many people *do not* move." For some reason(s).

Robbower wrote: "BTW... if all of the USA's urban populations moved to rural and small town areas, there would still be only 34 people per sq. kilometer... about the population density of the State of Kansas."

Given that all land in the US is owned by someone, I'm not sure how people are simply going to spread out... and, as someone who lives in the western US, large areas of the US are not going to be absorbing hordes of people moving out from cities. Much Western land is very rugged, and, perhaps even more importantly, water resources are already strained to breaking point. We could most definitely use water more efficiently, but e.g. mass small holding farming will worsen water usage, not improve it; usage efficiency gains might, then, be a wash (pardon the sort-of-pun.) If that didn't take the water supply past the tipping point, adding people will. Taking this, and the ownership issue, you can also question: since the 'good' land is already being used to a very great extent for farming, are sure you want to move 10's, then eventually 100's, of millions of people onto that land? That seems like a terrible idea (okay, potentially terrible idea).

Robbower wrote: "And, yes, if everyone reduced their energy consumption (walking, biking, etc.) the impact would be HUGE!!! Remember, industry only pollutes at our (individuals') behest! ALL pollution and other environmental impacts come from you and me."

True... but centralized production centers (factories) are more energy efficient than very broadly distributed production. Resource gathering is more efficient and arguably less damaging when done in more centralized ways than when spread all over (e.g. big mines are, usually, very polluting; but but having 1000 small mines more polluting.)

More to your point, if I remember correctly, somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of energy in the US is spent on transportation, residential use, and commercial (not industrial) use. If you really want to make a dent in that, get as many people into cities as possible, and make those cities as energy efficient as possible. :0

I want to just restate, after a few messages back and forth, that I am actually entirely sympathetic to the spirit of what you are saying. I'm just not sure that the practical solution is for everyone to move the countryside and ride bicycles to their local farmer's market. That image has a powerful, deep resonance for many people, even me; but I think that emotional reaction tends to hide many of the issues inherent with that lifestyle when you try to extend it to 100's of millions of new people.


message 29: by aPriL does feral sometimes (last edited Sep 02, 2014 05:06PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 260 comments Here is some useful information:

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghge...

I think, though, until global warming is actually devastating human enterprise and physical comfort, there will be no effective overall consistent effort willingly performed by the masses to fix human environment destruction .

How do we convince the masses of people that the instant satisfaction of a sensual emotional charge or unthinking laziness or a quick easy solution is not as important as thinking long-term, planning ahead five years, looking beyond the balance sheet for three months, sweating with physical effort, etc.? How do we make a people who cannot stop at one chip, or think binge television watching is cool, or who play video games for days peeing into water bottles, that doing without instant gratification, walking a few blocks, eating less, taking time to separate out garbage, using the more inconvenient public transport , etc. is better than laying on the couch or sprawling in a car with every convenience (even seats which can warm up your ass fat) doing all of the moving wherever you want to go in the moment? I still see litter all over our streets, despite a century of campaigning against it! Think about the casual unthinking that goes into littering. That's how the general average human being is.

All of the First World knows they are destroying the planet and that there are better ways, even though these ways are harder, more expensive initially, and make tasks longer to perform, or mean making less money. The First World is responsible for most of the CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere.

It's very clear to me moral lecturing is peeing up a rope, fellows. Here in this thread, you are lecturing to the choir. This book widens out the audience a tad, but not much.

By th way, I'm loving the book. It's a lot of biology, discussing animals around the world, but also describing how they went extinct or will go extinct soon, and describing for a general reader the geological discoveries of evolution and the previous five extinctions. The author has written a very accessible and engaging book, with lots of pictures.

I brought up the wanton (not for food or because of a danger to life) killing of animals demonstrating the pure pleasure of it for many in an attempt to make a point about human nature, but I guess I didn't make my point clear.

Killing things is a pleasure for many people. I don't get it, but I have relatives who kill (hunting animals) because it is a charge emotionally. They don't do it to make money. Blood lust is real and fun for them, the biggest fun these guys have. It often costs them a lot in terms of money and time. But their enjoyment is HUGE. It's better than sex to kill if you have blood lust in your genes.

Overfishing is not usually a blood lust, but earning money. These guys don't know how to make money any other way. It's life and death in their minds. A secondary and third reason is they love the sea, the wildlife, being out there in the elements. But love of the sea and wildlife does not conquer the need to make money to survive, live, support their children. There is also that old damn need to compete, fight the environment, wrest from the weather, the wild ocean, it's treasure of commercial fish. What some of these folks get out of Nature is fighting it, competing with it.

The phenomenon of only making money is a huge charge for others. They don't spend it much, but keep meeting the challenge of making more and more and more. It's a charge they can't do without. Lust for acquiring something of value and using that as a measure of their strength and power over the other guys is real. Competitive spirit rules them. That emotional charge of defeating someone else or something else is overwhelming, and addictive. Money is the measure of their position in the political power chart, their tribal position among ordinary Men. It's not just a Saturday Night TV show joke. This is a basic driving extinct for many individuals. Mine is bigger than yours. I BEAT you! I'm bigger, faster stronger than YOU. Why are sports teams often named after huge predatory animals?

If you don't get it or recognize it, you'll never convince these fellows that saving the Earth is better than their in-the-moment indulgences and triumphs. Think maybe how your triumph charge or high is in bicycling to the top of a long hill, or rock climbing, or running five miles. It's a powerful feeling. I know. When I was young I used to get Runner's High. But not every one feels Runner's High, do they? It's a very individual experience, as well, where you are competing against yourself. I don't think this kind of competition revs up the jets as much as beating another person, though, for many.

It means to me that many, if not most, people operate in the moment. Their brains do not make logical connections to their logical centers very deeply or quickly, or seeing ahead three steps into the future, or beyond their self-centered focus on their own pleasures or safety.

You guys, me too, have been trying to sell sacrifice for the greater good. It's not working, is my point. I think we need more marketing types, not environmentalists. Look at the Lou Gehrig's disease campaign. People are dumping cold water over themselves and they don't even know what the disease is (or care). It's all about the fun, the fad, the attention, the tribalism.

Instead of more boring moral arguments which have the distinction of energizing 25% of humanity for the last century, it's obvious we need some kind of stupid ice water challenge before there is no way to have ice anymore. I'm not real clever, but I am an average 'housewife'. These comments above only reach me because I tend to believe my immediate acts of today CAN affect the future. How do you reach the immediate emotional gratification thinkers (the majority)? No way are they going to sacrifice their cars which satisfy almost every inherited gene button they possess over something still unseen or felt like the future. In my opinion, only a pleasurable substitute is going to work, like finding a way to make walking or bicycling feel as good as eating a steak or chocolate. An electric car is going to need to be as muscular as a NASCAR race car.

You are not trying to reach environmentalists or greenies or scientists or physical fitness junkies. You are trying to reach your 18-year-old weed and speed pounding beats son or nephew, or your harried workaholic adult, or your couch-potato relative. You need to reach the people who never read science books or newspapers - the majority of the First World. They've been hearing the above comments all of their lives at this point. Not working! IMHO, government push and power, with strong video-gaming style marketing might work, or a fad that is fun and cool. But democratic governments have lost authority respect and focus, while instant gratification has taken over all first World culture.

Personally, I think there will be nothing done of consequence whatsoever. I think the human race will simply adjust to the environmental degradation and keep moving on. Our current level of civilization will become a mythic time of plenty and beauty. People will debate if a time when people were 6 feet tall and lived 80 years long, with many diseases abolished or curable, and pure water from the ground ever existed, along with tigers, fish and elephants.

I think the human race is too stupid to live another 50,000 years. The earth will eventually recover. The book demonstrates that in the layers of dirt and rock from the past life keeps renewing itself and new top predators keep occurring. Maybe the next intelligent top mammalian(maybe) life form which rises to the top will have the right genetic inheritance to preserve their environment instead of sh*tting in the same place where they live.


message 30: by J. (new)

J. Gowin | 21 comments aPriL purrs 'n hisses wrote: "Here is some useful information:

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghge...

I think, though, until global warming is actually devastating human enterprise and physical comfort, the..."


Actually, hunters are a very good group to examine, if one seeks to find ways of changing human behavior patterns. In the last century, has any ecology minded group gone through a bigger ethical change than have hunters? While there are moral outliers, (which make most of the folks I hunt with cringe), todays sporting ethos is dominated by conservationism and "fair chase". We have gone from viewing game animals a mere commodity, to seeing ourselves as part of something larger than ourselves, and rising to the responsibilities of this new ethos.

Understanding how this change in mentality occured may prove useful in more vital areas.


Oscar | 14 comments I am all over this book after I finish last month's selection. :D


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 260 comments J -

I'm not an expert, but it appears on the surface some hunters changed their minds only when they noticed there wasn't the variety or amount of game available anymore. I think it was a slap to the back of the head for some hunters, a bit like looking down into a deep well of water which you thought bottomless, only this time when you looked, you saw the bottom and suddenly realized you were running out of water. It comes from a selfish place, doesn't it?

It might definitely mean that by the environmentalists and scientists approaching the selling of the fact that unless we realize that the end must be considered nigh for our current gas- and coal- energy-fueled luxuries - which positively will result in suffering and pain for our great great grand kids two hundred years from now - means we have to start sacrificing our utterly delightful and satisfying lifestyles today, IS NOT the best way to sell that saving the earth today will be meaningful later. Selfishness absolutely rules the human heart, IMHO.

According to this book, people have been wiping out the fauna all over the world long before scientists began to provide measurements of it and a historical context. The Sixth Extinction has already been happening for millennia. Hunters must have seen it coming, but I think scientists put it into context. That still didn't seem to do it, you know. As long as there was something else to shoot, they were good to go. It was only when they saw NO birds arriving in a season, or no more wildlife around in their customary areas, hunters started to think. Even so, some hunters came up with the staking of tame 'wild' zoo creatures that people can walk up to, pet happily, then shoot, all in a minute, instead of reacting environmentally, after their deep think.

Only now when bees stopped coming at all or were very few did the farmers become concerned; but they have mostly decided to pay more for a different type of bee to be shipped in, not changing their bug sprays or massive fertilizing. If the new bees die, then they'll switch to another insect and another insect. The problem here, of course, is insects are also disappearing, believe it or not.

Then there is the problem of invasive species. The author shows how all of these mistaken or temporary solutions humans provided on their own by shipping in or bringing in on plane, train, boat, are leading to destruction of the world's flora and fauna, leading to reduced numbers of life overall, not more and more variety. We are losing our earth with so-called alternative or careful management of resources in the efforts tried so far. There is little government intervention in the solutions private citizens are providing. Did you know ordinary garden and seed catalogs often are the enablers that ordinary people are innocently using to bring in horrible invasive plants and bugs?

In Brazil, they are trying several experimental 'patches' of 25 square kilometers of 'untouched' rainforest, mixed in with the government sponsored cow farms with the rainforest bulldozed down flat, measuring the wildlife in the patches every year. The book explains how they are doing this, and how well it's working so far. Pretty interesting. I think it's going to be a fail, though.


message 33: by Robbower (new)

Robbower | 50 comments Broadly, there seems to be two ways to handle looming environmental problems. One, like the hunting examples above, is to notice a problem, and take steps in advance to alleviate it. That seems to work when there is a limited number of people involved in the decision making.

The other way is more common; that is, to ignore the problem (or deny its existence) until it becomes so acute that a change is compelled by circumstances (say, regional famine, war, or coastal cities under water).

Either way, the problem is solved, but the second way leads to huge amounts of human suffering.


Avid Reader and Geek Girl (avidreaderandgeekgirl) I'm having trouble getting into it, should I push on or give up?


message 35: by aPriL does feral sometimes (last edited Sep 03, 2014 11:35AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 260 comments Oh, definitely push on! It's written like a magazine article - for a general reader - yet tells so much about the various geological locations, which the author visits, which caused a 'eureka!' moment for a scientist, who was often there for a different reason, who discovered something else instead, which ended up changing everything about our understanding of how the earth's climate changed in the past and is changing now. The discovery of an unexpected change in climate also usually involved a change of local animals and plants as well.

I found it easy to read and understand. The total end result is easily digested facts and history which will deepen the reader's understanding of how the scientists know the climate changed billions of years ago and is changing now, and how they know the current change is already affecting life. Instead of jargon, you'll be able to speak in English how 'they' know global warming is occurring, what it's doing to the world, and maybe what our neighborhoods will look like soon. The three issues the author is exposing is how Humanity is involved in the current climate change because: one, of our restless traveling around the world transporting, mostly unwisely, other life forms; as well as two, the CO2 we are pumping into the air from our gasoline-fueled cars and coal burning for electrical energy is changing (killing) the seas, trees/forests and wildlife the world over; and our extermination of animals in hunting for food, fun and profit (animals affect the type and quantity/quality of plants in their environment through their activities and nutritional needs, and by the symbiotic or otherwise interested neighbor animals who want to live close to their prey food).

One thing for sure, your grand kids may not grow up with the trees, insects or local neighborhood wild animals and birds you did, or cheap water to drink or cheap electricity. The air certainly will be different.

After finishing this book, you might want to look at a fiction novel, The Road . Warning: it's an extremely terrifying look at living in a world utterly wrecked environmentally, and it had me in tears.


David Rubenstein | 859 comments Mod
Robbower wrote: "BTW... if all of the USA's urban populations moved to rural and small town areas, there would still be only 34 people per sq. kilometer... about the population density of the State of Kansas.

This comment reminds me of a book I read a couple of years ago, Green Metropolis: What the City Can Teach the Country About True Sustainability. This book makes a very strong argument, that big cities are much "greener" than rural areas. The resources (energy, water, heat) required per person are lower in big cities, than in rural areas and small towns. Likewise, the waste and pollution per person are lower in, say, New York City than in any rural area.


message 37: by Robbower (new)

Robbower | 50 comments That depends on lifestyle. I've read the same thing, and it always assumes that the rural folks have a huge, gas-guzzling vehicle that they drive 50 miles to the nearest town every day. Naturally, average population density does not mean literally plunking down exactly 34 people per every sq. kilometer. 'Rural' people typically congregate in small towns with their own infrastructure and services with walking distance, surrounded by agricultural lands that supply the local foodstuffs that sustain them.


message 38: by Re (new) - rated it 5 stars

Re Heubel | 22 comments aPriL purrs 'n hisses wrote: ""In fact, the American mastodon vanished around thirteen thousand years ago. It's demise was part of a wave of disappearances that has come to be known as the megafauna extinction. This wave coinci..."

There is no environmental movement left in the US.

This book has created little or no buzz, unlike Silent Spring.

My guess is that most Americans, being scientifically illiterate, are unaware of this 6th extinction. Or the huge damage affluent society does to the environment. Or that we are pushing the limits of resources - water, soil, oil etc.. Americans will only figure this out when prices for food and fuel skyrocket.


message 39: by Re (new) - rated it 5 stars

Re Heubel | 22 comments aPriL purrs 'n hisses wrote: "Here is some useful information:

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghge...

I think, though, until global warming is actually devastating human enterprise and physical comfort, the..."


I think things will get ugly. As global warming and climate change proceed, flooding, droughts (already occurring in the West and Texas), famines, sea level rise etc.. will cause much destruction and suffering. Water rationing is already happening in California and Texas.

How thing have changed since the very frugal Americans who lived during the Great Depression and the rationing of WW2.

We have a society based on consumption and seemingly waste.

If prices for food and fuel increase, behavior will change quickly even if most people don't have a clue about the Greenhouse Effect. This is why a carbon tax is necessary. James Hansen supports a revenue neutral / per capita refundable carbon tax. Fuel prices in Europe are already double or triple of what they are here. Same in Japan, I believe.


message 40: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 12 comments As a biologist I know well this ongoing extinction, but I don't like to think about it. I almost returned the book to the library after the (well written) prologue, as it all seems so sad and avoidable. Anyone else just feeling sad about it all?


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 260 comments I'm feeling very sad about it.


message 42: by Robbower (new)

Robbower | 50 comments Well, there is something of a backhanded upside. While biodiversity is shrinking, many species actually benefit from our re-molding of the biosphere. Some obvious examples are the American Robin, and White-tail Deer that both require tree-lined meadow to thrive. They love our suburban lawns! Among the invertebrates, the lowly earthworm did not survive the last glacial period in the American Midwest, but thrives here now thanks to transplanting ornamental plants and trees. Among recovering species in my state (Ohio) coyote, bald eagle, beaver and black bear are now common. I know these are small potatoes compared to what we are losing and have lost globally, but it gives me hope that maybe Mother Earth is more resilient than we thought.


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 260 comments I also think Mother Earth will survive. She has survived five other life extinctions. She'll survive ours as well. Maybe the earthworms will establish that Mars colony.


Jimmy | 87 comments I'm afraid that I fail to share the optimism.

What's going to prevent the ice caps from melting?
The human population from climbing?
The ocean temperature from rising?
The snow caps of the world's mountains from disappearing?
The amount of carbon in the atmosphere from climbing?
And so on.


message 45: by aPriL does feral sometimes (last edited Sep 11, 2014 08:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 260 comments I think the ice caps will melt. I think the ocean temperatures will rise. I think most snow caps will disappear. I think atmospheric carbon will rise. And so on.

What I'm optimistic about is the earth will change for the seventh time and survive us human beings, eventually with abundant life forms again.

However, I have grave doubts that human beings will survive the oncoming climate change, as well as I'm very doubtful if most of the life currently on earth will survive. But some microbes seem to survive and evolve in every extinction, and a small number of creatures of all types seem to survive in niches here and there, so I'm confident after a billion years or so, there will be another dominant life form. Who knows if it will have sentience? Dominance simply means it doesn't have any or very many predators who can eat it or kill it.

If humans survive, they will be in very reduced circumstances in regards to resources. But I find it difficult to believe they will ultimately survive in this current high-level capacity. The book seems to provide evidence that the incoming climate change is happening too quick for most species to evolve adequately, including us. When species do not have the time to evolve, they die out.

From what I know about human physiognomy (not with any expertise), we humans can only live in a narrow range of air pressure and mixtures of gases. We also live in a comparatively narrow temperature range. We require certain foods for our digestion abilities. At the moment, with self-inflicted injury, we have set in motion a minimum of a two-degree world-wide increase in temperatures, which could wipe out half of our food supply, not only from heat, but from clean water distribution changes and the introduction of new diseases. Whatever microbes, which CAN evolve quickly, that begin to expand and reduce their ranges due to the disappearance of their usual hosts will probably have a devastating effect on us. The book introduced to me the new understanding that we humans are busily transporting microbes all over the world because of our traveling around, which I understand has dramatically changed certain environments and introduced new diseases to humans and animals and plants which have no evolved defense against them. So, we are getting a foretaste of what is to come now, i.e., white-nose bat disease, for example, or many frog species dying off permanently or the bees disappearing.

Just think what adding in a completely different temperature/water/air environment will do to local flora/fauna defenses with their food died off or new diseases introduced with only months/decades to move on or evolve. And I haven't even mentioned yet the holocaust humans have already and are still doing to life with sport hunting, agriculture, power generation, mining, habitat cementing, wasteful water usage and literally defecating where we live, eat and drink.


Jimmy | 87 comments Here in New England, we have had a catastrophic 90% decline in monarch butterflies. I always grow milkweed in my yard to encourage them. For the last two years, not a single monarch butterfly for the first time ever for me.


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 260 comments We thought a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere could be a problem elsewhere....if they all die, then, no worries? Sorry, bleak humor.

Why can't we all do what Sweden is doing?

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/09/...


message 48: by aPriL does feral sometimes (last edited Sep 12, 2014 09:17PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 260 comments The link below is to Rolling Stone Magazine. I'm not shilling, but there is an article about how China is destroying its land. If interested, I'm sure a copy can be obtained at a magazine stand. The link shows the cover picture you should look for, and the title of the article.

http://contentviewer.adobe.com/s/Roll...

But this negates everything - China's pollution.


Jimmy | 87 comments Very interesting book end stories, aPril.


message 50: by Steve (new) - added it

Steve Van Slyke (steve_van_slyke) | 370 comments I haven't read this month's selection yet, but I've been following the posts and thought that some of you might be interested in a short book that tells what actually happened. Yes, happened. The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future is a work of science history written by a Chinese scientist in the late 2300's.

Yes, this is a work of fiction, but it's not a novel, and it was in fact written by two well-respected climate scientists. So, if you want to find out how high sea level "actually" rose, you might find it interesting.


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