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The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Elizabeth Kolbert

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Kurzbeschreibung

11. Februar 2014

A 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.


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Pressestimmen

"Fascinating."—USA Today

"[An] excellent new book…The Sixth Extinction is the kind of book that helps us recognize the actual planet we live upon." —New York Review of Books

"Surprisingly breezy, entirely engrossing, and frequently entertaining... Kolbert is a masterful, thought-provoking reporter." —The Boston Globe

"Thorough and fascinating . . . Kolbert is an economical and deft explainer of the technical, and about as intrepid a reporter as they come . . . Her reporting is meticulous." —Harper’s

"Riveting… It is not possible to overstate the importance of Kolbert’s book. Her prose is lucid, accessible and even entertaining as she reveals the dark theater playing out on our globe."—San Francisco Chronicle

"A fascinating and frightening excursion… Kolbert presents powerful cases to bring her point home."—The Washington Post

"Your view of the world will be fundamentally changed… Kolbert is an astute observer, excellent explainer and superb synthesizer, and even manages to find humor in her subject matter." —The Seattle Times

"What's exceptional about Kolbert's writing is the combination of scientific rigor and wry humor that keeps you turning the pages." —National Geographic

"Beautifully written. An excellent book." —Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

"[Kolbert] makes a page-turner out of even the most sober and scientifically demanding aspects of extinction. Combining a lucid, steady, understated style with some enviable reporting adventures… she produces a book that is both serious-minded and invites exclamation points into its margins." —New York Magazine

"Powerful . . . Kolbert expertly traces the ‘twisting’ intellectual history of how we’ve come to understand the concept of extinction, and more recently, how we’ve come to recognize our role in it. . . An invaluable contribution to our understanding of present circumstances."—Al Gore, The New York Times Book Review

"Arresting . . . Ms. Kolbert shows in these pages that she can write with elegiac poetry about the vanishing creatures of this planet, but the real power of her book resides in the hard science and historical context she delivers here, documenting the mounting losses that human beings are leaving in their wake." —The New York Times

"[Kolbert] grounds her stories in rigorous science and memorable characters past and present, building a case that a mass extinction is underway, whether we want to admit it or not." —Discover Magazine

"Throughout her extensive and passionately collected research, Kolbert offers a highly readable, enlightening report on the global and historical impact of humans... a highly significant eye-opener rich in facts and enjoyment." —Kirkus (starred review)

"The factoids Kolbert tosses off about nature’s incredible variety—a frog that carries eggs in its stomach and gives birth through its mouth, a wood stork that cools off by defecating on its own legs—makes it heartbreakingly clear, without any heavy-handed sermonizing from the author, just how much we lose when an animal goes extinct. In the same way, her intrepid reporting from far-off places—Panama, Iceland, Italy, Scotland, Peru, the Amazonian rain forest of Brazil, and the remote one tree Island, off the coast of Australia—gives us a sense of the earth’s vastness and beauty." —Bookforum

"Kolbert accomplishes an amazing feat in her latest book, which superbly blends the depressing facts associated with rampant species extinctions and impending ecosystem collapse with stellar writing to produce a text that is accessible, witty, scientifically accurate, and impossible to put down."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Rendered with rare, resolute, and resounding clarity, Kolbert’s compelling and enlightening report forthrightly addresses the most significant topic of our lives." —Booklist (starred review)

"Solid [and] engaging."  —Library Journal (starred review)

"An epic, riveting story of our species that reads like a scientific thriller—only more terrifying because it is real. Like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction is destined to become one of the most important and defining books of our time." —David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z

"I tore through Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction with a mix of awe and terror. Her long view of extinction excited my joy in life's diversity -- even as she made me aware how many species are currently at risk." —Dava Sobel, author of Longitude and Galileo’s Daughter

"With her usual lucid and lovely prose, Elizabeth Kolbert lays out the sad and gripping facts of our moment on earth: that we've become a geological force, driving vast swaths of creation over the brink. A remarkable addition to the literature of our haunted epoch." —Bill McKibben, author Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist

"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."—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 result is an important book full of love and loss." —David Quammen, author of The Song of the Dodo and Spillover

"Elizabeth Kolbert writes with an aching beauty of the impact of our species on all the other forms of life known in this cold universe. The perspective is at once awe-inspiring, humbling and deeply necessary." —T.C. Boyle, author of San Miguel

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Elizabeth Kolbert is a staff writer at The New Yorker. She is the author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. She lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts, with her husband and children.

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5.0 von 5 Sternen A Clarion Call for Ending the Current Mass Extinction 1. Februar 2014
Von John Kwok - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
As a former invertebrate paleobiologist, "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History" is the book I have been waiting for years to be written. It is a clarion call for ending the current mass extinction that we humans are causing, and a book that should be, according to Scientific American, "this era's galvanizing text", worthy of comparison with Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring". It is also a vastly superior popular science book than last year's "Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction" written by IO9 science editor Annalee Newitz, simply because Elizabeth Kolbert, a staff writer at The New Yorker, has done a superlative job in science reporting, accurately reporting and interpreting work done by some of the most notable researchers of our time studying mass extinctions, whether it is research from Berkeley vertebrate paleobiologist Anthony Barnosky (The lead author of a 2011 Nature paper estimating that current extinction rates are equivalent to those of the five great mass extinctions recognized from the fossil record; the terminal Ordovician, terminal Permian, terminal Triassic and the terminal Cretaceous; the latter in which non-avian dinosaurs became extinct.) or American Museum of Natural History curator of invertebrate paleontology Neil Landman, a noted researcher of Cretaceous ammonites, or evolutionary geneticist and anthropologist Svante Paabo, whose team is sequencing the entire Neanderthal genome and recognized the existence of another late Pleistocene hominid species, the Denisovans, from genomic material in a fragment of a finger bone found in a Siberian cave. What Kolbert has written is a spellbinding work of science journalism worthy of comparison with David Quammen's "The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions", and one that belongs on the bookshelves of anyone interested in science, and especially those who may not grasp the full extent of the ongoing mass extinction being caused by us, humanity. Moreover, at the end of her book, she provides an extensive bibliography which notes many of the most important relevant scientific papers as well as important texts written by the likes of notable ecologists James H. Brown and Michael Rosenzweig, and paleobiologists Michael Benton, Douglas Erwin and Richard Fortey. Without question, "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History", may be one of the most discussed, most important, books of popular science published this year.

In her opening chapter, "The Sixth Extinction", in prose that is hauntingly beautiful and poignant, Kolbert cites the disappearance of Panamanian frogs and toads as one emblematic of the ongoing crisis in biodiversity, noting that of all the major groups of terrestrial vertebrates, amphibians are the ones which are most rapidly going extinct before our very eyes. She uses the discoveries of fossil mastodons and mammoths in North America and Europe in the 18th and early 19th Centuries in the second chapter ("The Mastodon's Molars") to introduce readers to the great French naturalist Georges Cuvier who was the first to recognize the existence of extinct species and the likelihood that they died during great cataclysms in Earth's history. Her third chapter, "The Original Penguin", is an especially lucid account of British geologist Charles Lyell's uniformitarian view of Earth's history, and how that inspired Charles Darwin's thinking, not only in geology, but especially, in his conception of the Theory of Evolution via Natural Selection, while describing the rapid extinction of the Great Auk - which was the first bird to be dubbed a "penguin" - in the North Atlantic Ocean along the northernmost coast of North America and Iceland. In the fourth chapter, "The Luck of the Ammonites", she offers an especially lucid account of geologist Walter Alvarez's discovery of the iridium-rich clay at the end of the Cretaceous, leading to the development of the asteroid impact theory for the Cretaceous mass extinction, while also discussing work by such notable invertebrate paleontologists as David Jablonski, David Raup, Jack Sepkoski, and Neil Landman, in noting how the Cretaceous mass extinction that wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs, ammonites and other notable terrestrial and marine organisms, was simply a case of bad luck, which she emphasizes further in describing the probable causes for the terminal Ordovician and terminal Permian mass extinctions (Chapter V).

Kolbert devotes two chapters (Chapters VI and VII) to the ongoing "experiment" humanity is performing on the world's oceans, ocean acidification, caused by an excessive increase in carbon dioxide being dumped into them, and noting that it was a likely cause for several of the mass extinctions known from the fossil record. I must commend her for an excellent discussion of the species-area curve known for decades by ecologists, especially through the important research by E. O. Wilson and his colleague Robert MacArthur in the early 1960s (Chapter VIII), as a means of understanding habitat fragmentation (Chapter IX) as a major contributing factor in determining a species' prospects for survival. There are also excellent discussions on how human activity has fostered the unexpected dispersal of animals and plants, creating, in essence a "New Pangea" (Chapter X), that has only accelerated the tempo of the ongoing mass extinction, and the "Pleistocene Overkill" hypothesis (Chapter XI) proposed by geologist Paul S. Martin that has been confirmed, in spectacular fashion, by palynological (fossilized pollen and spores) data from Australia and North America. She describes the extinction of Neanderthals as another, much earlier, example of human-driven extinction (Chapter XII) relying on the notable research by Svante Paabo and his team, noting the importance of the "Out of Africa" theory in explaining Homo sapiens' global dispersal, while also discussing Paabo's "leaky-replacement" hypothesis that accounts for Neanderthals' eventual replacement by Homo sapiens through interbreeding, resulting in hybrids whose descendants include all non-African populations of humanity, contributing between 1 and 4 percent within the genomes of non-African populations, remnants of the Neanderthal genome. In the concluding chapter (Chapter XIII), Kolbert acknowledges she has been amassing evidence demonstrating why the current mass extinction exists, and warning us that "...we are deciding, without quite meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will forever be closed. No other creature has ever managed this, and it will, unfortunately, be our most enduring legacy."
130 von 146 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Like Looking In A Mirror, But Failing To See The Image 10. Februar 2014
Von Frederick S. Goethel - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
From the title of this book, it would be easy to imagine that it was another science writer creating a book about climate change and attributing our future to that singular event. On the contrary, Elizabeth Kolbert has shown, through a number of examples, how we are destroying our environment and possible ourselves in the process.

Kolbert begins by going through the past five extinctions and explaining what is known of them and how they came about, as well as what organisms were present during each of them that eventually were wiped out. She then travels around the world to look at a number of ways in which we humans are causing the death and destruction of our current environment. That ranges from acidification of the oceans from excessive carbon dioxide levels to clear cutting of forests and to our unwitting transfer of invasive species around the globe on a regular and frequent basis.

This book is a wakeup call for all humans. In one way or another, we are all working to end the existence of numerous species and possibly our own. We may possibly be too smart for our own good. A quote from near the end of the book is certainly a message that is cause for us all to ponder! " If you want to think about why humans are so dangerous to other species, you can picture a poacher in Africa carrying an AK-47 or a logger in the Amazon gripping an ax, or, better still, you can picture yourself, holding a book on your lap."

Kolbert writes with the non-scientific individual in mind and makes even the most difficult subjects easy to understand. As I said above, we are looking in a mirror and failing to see the destruction we are creating. Kolbert makes us look at that image. This book is fascinating and thought provoking and very much well worth the price!
101 von 116 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen insightful exploration of human-driven extinction 2. Februar 2014
Von John C. Wiegard - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
Elizabeth Kolbert's globe-trotting effort to probe the concept of Extinction covers all the angles. In the first half of her book she explains the complex process by which scientists such as Lyell and Cuvier pieced together an understanding that large extinction events have occurred several times in our planet's history. The most notable of these was the case of the Yucatan meteor strike that wiped out the dinosaurs, an amazing episode of mass-extinction that has only been understood over the past thirty years. In the second half, she branches out into the anthrocene era, with the terrifying prospect of ocean acidification, alien species introductions, and the gradual isolation and disappearance of tropical plants. Kolbert's perspectives reveal that humans have driven extinctions not just today, and not just with the nineteenth century eradication of the Great Auk, but back to the end of the ice age with our hunting of the Mastodons and Giant Sloths. For Kolbert, it does not mean that humans are inherently vicious- but it does mean that our drive to change our environment to suit our needs is a dangerous drive- because it risks sawing off the branch on which we are perched.

Kolbert is studiously non-political in this effort, which may frustrate environmentalist readers seeking a red-meat endorsement of change in human society. But her thoughtful and wide ranging analysis is extremely informative on a topic that is not well understood by all. A careful reading will leave the reader disturbed and frightened, despite her matter-of-fact tone.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Author does not allow scientific quality of her claims to be clouded with politicization 12. Februar 2014
Von Denis Vukosav - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
`The Sixth Extinction' written by Elizabeth Kolbert is an extremely interesting book that talks about the phenomenon of species extinction that we are all well-aware of from the study of history; the only difference being that in this case one who conducts the research is the same one that could be one of its subjects - the human species.

The author in her work used an expert way to merge scientific facts and forecasts for the human future that can be inferred from the natural current and historical indicators; the result is a thrilling book that is quick and easy to read, although its foreboding is sometimes a bit of ominous.

Kolbert decided to divide her book into two parts; in first part she discusses how humans came up with theories of species mass extinction while in second half she is more concerned with the human impact on nature and eco-systems, mostly global warming and increase of ocean acidification, that resulted with large changes and extinction in plant and animal species in the short time which in the lifetime of the planet can be considered a blink of an eye.

What made her book looking serious is the fact that at no time author does not allow scientific quality of her claims to be clouded with politicization - therefore, Kolbert's book is not a political pamphlet nor she had the desire to take reader subtly in one direction. Instead the author delivered a work of investigative journalism in its essence which as much as its topics and conclusions may seem complex, didn't even for a moment went into cheap platitudes.

The way author chose to end her book is also very interesting - Kolbert does not want to play the prophet ending her work with some apocalyptic conclusions of what will be of most interest to the readers: What about human destiny? She intuitively leads reader to this issue, but she does not attempt to answer it - it will be left to each individual after closing the last page of her excellent book.

The only thing that slightly spoils the impression of the book is the fact that it lacks a bit more graphic material which would have made it even more pleasant for viewing, and not just for reading - some colorful pictures and history timelines that would show historical periods on which the author discusses skillfully on her pages. However, this is only a very small flaw compared with all the positive, useful and instructive things you will find between its covers which make `The Sixth Extinction' highly recommended for reading.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen The end of the world as we know it 15. Februar 2014
Von Cecil Bothwell - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
This is the second book I've reviewed over the years by this title. The first was by Richard Leakey The Sixth Extinction: Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind by Leakey, Richard E. Reprint Edition [Paperback(1996)].
Leakey's version of this very bleak story is more focused on disappearing biota, and Kolbert's more broadly observant of how extinction has happened over the centuries. Still, I'd commend both books to any reader interested in how our species is bending life on earth to the breaking point. We forget our dependence on the whole system to our peril, and we (writ large) have definitely forgotten how we fit.

While other reviewers of this book have cast it as a wake up call, or a demand for action, I'm afraid my own reaction is a bit more resigned. It appears to me, from the evidence presented in both books (and much elsewhere) that the die is cast. We have initiated an unraveling that is highly unlikely to be halted. We will save a species here, an ecotone there, for a while. But the release of fossil carbon and the intercontinental transfer of species (and diseases) is going to play itself out. We are very unlikely to survive our own mischief, and we are taking down most of the rest of our fellow travelers in the process.

This too shall pass.
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