Aug 04

Book Review: The Sixth Extinction

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural HistoryThe Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

This is an informative but exceedingly depressing book that will make any animal-lover want to cry.

Part of the book is about the history of the discovery of extinction, including the fossil craze of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The story of Victorian era scientists all excited running around excavating mastodon bones cheered me up a little. Wouldn’t it be great to live in an era where every day turns up new and exciting species we didn’t know existed?

Except we live in the other kind of era, where every day we learn how many species die as a result of us. The book chronicles the extinction of the auk, and how quickly it happened (Question: why aren’t there penguins in the arctic? Answer: humans killed them all.) Kolbert presents convincing hypotheses that we did the same thing to more ancient species, like the New Zealand moa (Question: did Big Bird ever really exist? Answer: yes, but humans killed them all.) Bad news follows bad news as once-common speices, like brown bats and Panamanian golden frogs, disappear before our eyes.

Like Douglas Adams’ LAST CHANCE TO SEE, this is a book that reminds you if you don’t see the Great Barrier Reef soon, it might be gone forever, and in fact, your grandchildren might live in a world that doesn’t have elephants. Or they might not. Live, that is, because we’re animals too and things aren’t looking so good for all animals.

Informative and well-written, this book is more truth than my tender heart was able to take.

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