Friday, June 27, 2014

The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

Science writer Elizabeth Kolbert examines the history of mass extinctions and shows how we are in the midst of a sixth extinction, caused by human progress. Kolbert's skill is to distil complex science into an easily accessible form. Much of the book, however, makes for scary reading.

Throughout the world’s 4.5 billion year history, there have been five mass extinction events. In this highly readable history, science writer for The New Yorker magazine, Elizabeth Kolbert, examines how we are now heading into a sixth mass extinction. This time, however, the extinction is happening before our eyes and it is being caused by human expansion. We are moving into animal environments, using their resources and leaving behind toxic pollution. As we continue to expand and exploit resources, biodiversity shrinks and atrophies. 

What makes this book so appealing is Kolbert’s engaging style and skill at communicating the science on extinction in a happily digestible form. Her book mixes on the ground reportage, history and science, creating a compelling picture of an environment under very dangerous pressure. The concentration on individual species and their reduction to zero, often at the hands of greedy humans, will make you wring your hands in despair.

The Sixth Extinction is high quality popular science that excels at communicating some of the toughest environmental issues we face today.

The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert. Published by Bloomsbury. ISBN:  9781408851227  RRP:$29.99

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