The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert is about how we are destroying ourselves. The previous five extinctions involve the mass loss of life on earth in the past. The key to remember is that life forms die off and the earth survives to generate or house another life form. So we shouldn’t really be concerned with saving the earth, we should be concerned in saving ourselves, cause as we have seen the earth will survive no the living forms on it. I am reading this book at the same time I have been watching the new version of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey with Neil deGrasse Tyson on TV. Tyson refers to the five extinctions regularly without really explaining them as Kolbert does. Each fills in gaps the other provides.
A man named Cuvier from France was the first person to record extinct animals. This was in late 1700’s and early 1800’s. This is incredible how short our categorizing and naming of extinct animals is. He was conflicted because he was religious and based much of his theories on Biblical events, especially the Deluge. He reconstructed extinct animals and bone gathering became a career, “fossilists” and supplied the wealthy with bones.
Darwin argues that extinction is as slow and painstaking as evolution. In a sense he is correct, until you figure Man into the equation. Man is most responsible for modern extinctions and Kolbert chronicles the fate of the Great Auk as a prime example as well as the tortoises from Galapagos Islands.
Extinctions are curious anomalies in that there seems to be a pattern in cosmic interference caused by a dark star and how the ocean reacts in temperature change. By studying the past, especially the extinctions we are able to better understand why we are hurrying the next extinction along at a rather rapid pace. The discover and studies at the ocean vents at Castello Aragonese off Naples, Italy provide a glimpse of what we are doing to us on this earth that will survive us as we go extinct by our own doing more than by any cosmic or natural cause for the previous extinctions. Comforting isn’t it?
The good news is that the sixth extinction won’t be as bad as the previous five, and the bad news it will be worse than all the “lesser” extinctions. We have entered the Anthropocene.