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eBook The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History download
Science
Author: Elizabeth Kolbert
ISBN: 0805092994
Subcategory: Biological Sciences
Pages 336 pages
Publisher Henry Holt and Co.; 1st edition (February 11, 2014)
Language English
Category: Science
Rating: 4.1
Votes: 975
ePUB size: 1731 kb
FB2 size: 1321 kb
DJVU size: 1538 kb
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eBook The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History download

by Elizabeth Kolbert


Elizabeth Kolbert's cautionary tale, The Sixth Extinction, offers us a cogent overview of a harrowing biological challenge. The reporting is exceptional, the contextualizing exemplary. Kolbert stands at the forefront of what it means to be a socially responsible American writer today.

Elizabeth Kolbert's cautionary tale, The Sixth Extinction, offers us a cogent overview of a harrowing biological challenge. Barry Lopez, author of Arctic Dreams. The sixth mass extinction is the biggest story on Earth, period, and Elizabeth Kolbert tells it with imagination, rigor, deep reporting, and a capacious curiosity about all the wondrous creatures and ecosystems that exist, or have existed, on our planet

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History is a 2014 non-fiction book written by Elizabeth Kolbert and published by Henry Holt and Company. The book argues that the Earth is in the midst of a modern, man-made, sixth extinction

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History is a 2014 non-fiction book written by Elizabeth Kolbert and published by Henry Holt and Company. The book argues that the Earth is in the midst of a modern, man-made, sixth extinction. In the book, Kolbert chronicles previous mass extinction events, and compares them to the accelerated, widespread extinctions during our present time.

The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy; as Kolbert o. .U N E S C O General History of Africa.Africa under colonial domination, 1880-1935. 28 MB·25,552 Downloads·New! U N E S C O General History of Africa. Volume I. Methodology and African Prehistory. Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. The sixth mass extinction is the biggest story on Earth, period, and Elizabeth Kolbert tells it with imagination, rigor, deep reporting, and a capacious curiosity about all the wondrous creatures and ecosystems that exist, or have existed, on our planet

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As in Tolstoy, every extinction event appears to be unhappy, and fatally so, in its own way," adds Kolbert. We may have succeeded extravagantly on Earth but we have done so at the expense of just about every other species.

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The Sixth Extinction places our understanding of By Elizabeth Kolbert. The book traces historical ered an unnatural history. New York: Henry Holt and Com- mass extinction in a historic and prehistoric context, pany. xiii ⫹ 319 . il. index. Instead, the sixth ex- conception of mass extinction to revolutionary France tinction appears to be another Cuvierian catastrophe, and the work of French naturalist Georges Cuvier, bearing all the hallmarks of its five precursors. who theorized that life on Earth had been disturbed Matthew Holmes, Centre for the History & Phi- by multiple cataclysms.

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZEONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW'S 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEARA NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERA NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALISTA 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.

Xmatarryto
Yes, human-caused extinction is upon us in full force. As science journalist extraordinaire Elizabeth Kolbert tells it, we humans have been killing whatever we could whenever we could since the beginning of our tenure here on earth. First the mastodons, the giant sloths, the great flightless birds, the woolly rhino, then the whales, the gorillas, the tigers, the buffalo, etc. The first cause was ignorance. Primitive humans just didn’t know that they were destroying the source of their subsistence until they had to move on. Today we know the truth.

And that truth is there is nowhere to move on to. This book is a detailed and fascinating delineation of just what we are doing to the planet and how. From the fishes in the sea to the polar bears on the ice: all fall down. Why? Willful ignorance, stupidity, and the devil take tomorrow.

(But it might be said, so what if we kill off all sorts of creatures great and small? We don’t need them. We have our pigs and cows and chickens. We grow corn and soy. Yes, the little foxes are cute and the lions magnificent. But we have zoos and preserves. After you’ve seen a few elephants you don’t need to see vast herds of them.)

This is the view of many people in high places in government and at the helms of giant corporations whose main concern is staying in power and improving the bottom line. But here’s the rub: with the extraordinary rate of the current extinction what we might be left with is nearly sterile oceans, stunted scrub forests, destroyed ecologies and starving humans at one another’s throats. Combine that with global warming and desperate leaders flinging nuclear bombs around, and yes, Chicken Little, the sky is falling.

Okay, rant over with. Let me say a few things about this splendid book that is so readable and so full of information, humor and the kind of passion that lights up the pages. Kolbert combines research, interviews and fieldwork into a very readable, vivid and informative narrative that is so good that…well, she won the Pulitzer Prize for this book in 2015.

Some notes and quotes:

“The reason this book is being written by a hairy biped, rather than a scaly one, has more to do with dinosaurian misfortune than with any particular mammalian virtue.” (p. 91)

“Warming today is taking place at least ten times faster than it did at the end of the last glaciation, and at the end of those glaciations that preceded it. To keep up, organisms will have to migrate, or otherwise adapt, at least ten times more quickly.” (p. 162)

Kolbert notes that during the Pleistocene (2.5 million years ago to about 11,700 years ago) “…temperatures were significantly lower than they are now…,” mainly because the glacial periods tended to be longer than the interglacial periods. What this means is that most life forms are probably not going to be able to deal with the heat “...since temperatures never got much warmer than they are right now.” In other words, we are experiencing an accelerated catastrophe. (p.171)

Kolbert describes the red-legged honeycreeper as “the most beautiful bird I have ever seen.” (p. 178) So naturally I had to Google it. It is indeed beautiful. The reader might want to take a look. It’s very blue with some neat black trim and those incongruous red legs!

Kolbert observes that we are creating a New Pangaea because our global transport systems are sending plants and animals all around the globe. Instead of the continents moving closer together the plants and animals are moving closer together as on a single continent. (p. 208)

A joke: after the journal “Nature” published proof of the existence of the Denisovan hominids because of a DNA-rich finger found in southern Siberia, there came a newspaper headline: “Giving Accepted Prehistoric History the Finger.” (p. 253)

As to the “controversy” over what killed off the megafauna in e.g., North and South America, in Siberia, in Australia, Kolbert minces no words and comes down strong on the likely suspect—us. And as for the Neanderthal, ditto. See chapters XI and XII.

She writes: “Before humans finally did in the Neanderthals, they had sex with them.” She notes that “most people today are slightly—up to four percent—Neanderthal.” (p. 238) Personally, according to “23 and Me,” I am 3.8% Neanderthal.

--Dennis Littrell, author of “Understanding Evolution and Ourselves”
Onetarieva
In the excellent THE SIXTH EXTINCTION (TSE), Elizabeth Kolbert briefly discusses the so-called big-five mass extinctions, which had cataclysmic effects on earth’s biodiversity. These mass extinctions and their probable causes are the: End-Ordovician, glaciation; Late Devonian, volcanism; End-Permian, the warming of the oceans, the rampant proliferation of a bacteria that produced hydrogen sulfide, and a consequent greenhouse effect; Late Triassic, ocean acidification; and End-Cretaceous, a gigantic meteor collides with the earth.

So, what is the sixth extinction and why is it different? The causes of the five previous mass extinctions were natural catastrophes. The sixth, in contrast, is man-made. And it is occurring now.

As she discusses this sixth extinction, Kolbert, follows three narrative strategies. Mostly, she focuses each chapter in TSE on a particular animal that is extinct, on the verge of extinction, or that is becoming increasingly rare. Then, she examines the habitats and vulnerabilities of these animals and the human-induced causes of their decline or demise. These animals and the scourges to their existence include: the golden frog, a fungus, harmless to African frogs, that humans spread through the exigencies of pregnancy tests and fine-dining; great Auks, overhunting; corals, acidification of the oceans; North American brown bats, another fungus, this time originating with immune European bats; white-plumed antbirds, habitat fragmentation and a consequent reduction in army ant colonies, which is their primary food; and megafauna, such as the mastodon and Sumatran rhino, which are doomed by their long gestation periods and human predation.

Meanwhile, her second strategy is to focus on environments. In this case, her subjects are: oceans, which are gradually becoming more acidic as they absorb the carbon humans generate through burning fossil fuels; and rain forests, which are losing species because of global warming.

Finally, Kolbert examines the attempt by scientists to preserve species that are on the verge of extinction. Here, she visits a frozen zoo, where cells of threatened species are preserved in cryogenic fluid and thereby kept viable. And she discusses actual zoos that have breeding programs for rare animals.

The blurbs on my edition of TSE observe that this book is “arresting, riveting, and powerful”. And they describe Kolbert’s writing as “masterful, surprisingly breezy, and engrossing.” All this is true and she gets the final word. “Today, amphibians enjoy the dubious distinction of being the world’s most endangered class of animals… But extinction rates among many other groups are approaching amphibian levels. It is estimated that one-third of all reef-building corals, a third of all fresh-water mollusks, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion… If you know how to look, you can probably find signs of the current extinction event in your own backyard.”

Highly recommended