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The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014)

de Elizabeth Kolbert

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2,4901334,373 (4.17)235
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, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.… (mais)
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It is estimated that one-third of all reef-building corals, a third of all freshwater 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.

***

When the world changes faster than species can adapt, many fall out. This is the case whether the agent drops from the sky in a fiery streak or drives to work in a Honda. To argue that the current extinction event could be averted if people just cared more and were willing to make more sacrifices is not wrong, exactly; still, it misses the point. It doesn't much matter whether people care or don't care. What matters is that people change the world.

To be honest, I have been putting off reading this because I was afraid I was either going to get end of the world alarmism taken to eleven, or a bombastic, get-off-your-couch-and-save-the-world call to arms. This book is neither of those things. It is a cold, clear-eyed assessment of our current state of global change, encompassing human endeavor, ocean acidification, warming climate, invasive species, and habitat fragmentation. It is the story of how we developed capacity to understand the very idea of extinction just in time to chronicle our present mass extinction. It is one of the most chilling things I have ever read.

Kolbert reviews the history of the concept of extinction, which first began to develop with Cuvier in 1796, through Lyell and Darwin, until it finally took the shape of understanding we have today with the Alvarez' discovery of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs in 1980. She reviews a number of completed or in progress extinctions, including the Peruvian golden frog (truly, amphibians worldwide), the great auk, coral reefs, American bats, and others. She reviews the current science around the development of modern man and concludes that our era (and thus this extinction event) likely began in the middle of the last ice age. The science is well related. The book as a whole is a riveting read.

I have greatest admiration for this as a work of journalism, as she does not shy away from the truth: humanity, by its very nature, is reshaping the world. She ends, not with alarmism or false hope, but with a call to stewardship: it is up to us to do something intelligent with this information, to determine how we will shape what remains to us. That is the best we can do. (It is a depressing book. I guess I should mention that.) ( )
  amyotheramy | May 11, 2021 |
Fascinating, terrifying. In awe of the breadth of research and travel that went into this book. Focusing each theme of mass extinction around a specific ecosystem/species’ case made the underlying science feel all the more concrete. This book deepened my belief that the Fermi Paradox’s Great Filter is intelligent life’s tendency to destroy itself through war and the tragedy of the commons. Only complaint was Kolbert's habit of inserting non sequitur details re: her travels that felt like unnecessary flair. ( )
  jiyoungh | May 3, 2021 |
This is an excellent explanation of what climate change actually is. Easy to read and clear. ( )
  KittyCunningham | Apr 26, 2021 |
Esta resenha foi escrita no âmbito dos Primeiros Resenhistas do LibraryThing.
Elizabeth Kolbert travelled around the world, interviewing and studying with scientists from a variety of disciplines. Geologists, ornithologists, climatologists, marine biologists, all led her to the conclusion of this book: the earth is changing on a massive scale at an unprecedented speed, and humans are the cause.

Well-researched, well-written, *The Sixth Extinction* delves into the effects of humanity on the climate and ecology of the entire globe, effects so significant that geologists have started to refer to the current epoch as the Anthropocene.

Each chapter focuses on a different species or area, but all are tied into a cohesive narrative that leads the reader to Kolbert's haunting conclusion: we are heading for a mass extinction event not seen since the end of the dinosaurs.

Though the subject matter is a bit depressing, Kolbert does an excellent job of engaging the reader, telling the story in a way that is compelling, informative, and entertaining. ( )
  evenlake | Mar 23, 2021 |
Kolbert manages to weave together all of the knowledgable tidbits we've heard and create a thoughtful narrative about our anthropological heritage and how we've changed the world. Extinctions are part of a changing landscape, but seeing it all in one place puts it in perspective.
I like that Kolbert presents all of this information in a way that is honest whole not necessarily being alarmist. ( )
  Steph.Rowan | Mar 18, 2021 |
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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Elizabeth Kolbertautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Bischoff, UlrikeTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Blanc, MarcelTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Grzegorzewska, TatianaTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Grzegorzewski, PiotrTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Levavi, Meryl SussmanDesignerautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Peddis, CristianoTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Pracher, RickDesigner da capaautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Riera, Joan LluísTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Twomey, AnneNarradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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If there is danger in the human trajectory, it is not so much in the survival of our own species as in the fulfillment of the ultimate irony of organic evolution: that in the instant of achieving self-understanding through the mind of man, life has doomed its most beautiful creations. - E.O. Wilson
Centuries of centuries and only in the present do things happen. - Jorge Luis Borges
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The town of El Valle de Antón, in Central Panama, sits in the middle of a volcanic crater formed about a million years ago.
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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, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

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