The sixth extinction

sixth extinction coverI read Elizabeth Kolbert’s book The Sixth Extinction some time ago, and have struggled to assimilate the immensity of what it says. Essentially, mankind is the agent that is in the process of causing the sixth great extinction event for the variety of species on earth.

This has been going on for hundreds of years, most notably associated with the European expansion across the world from the 1500s, and accelerating with recent population explosion and globalisation. Should we be concerned?

You won’t find the answer in this book, but will find this disturbing subject covered in an engaging way. The author tells the story of a number of symptomatic species – mastodon, great auk,  golden frog, North American bats, etc. – and explores some particularly susceptible environments, notably the Amazon rainforest, the slopes of the Andes and the Great Barrier Reef.

The conclusions are stark. This mass extinction is happening. How severe it is depends on how we humans, now the planetary stewards, choose to act or not. Elizabeth Kolbert presents a balanced view, but in the end it depends what we all care about, and do.

Well worth reading.

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