Elizabeth Kolbert’s ‘The Sixth Extinction’

A Must Read 300This week I am reviewing a nonfiction book, that I desperately wish was fiction: Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction. Kolbert presents an analysis at various extinction events throughout earth’s history, as well as examines various ecological crises of present, in order to support the hypothesis that earth is seeing its sixth great extinction event. Throughout a handful of chapters Kolbert presents cases involving everything from mastadons to Sumatran rhinos, and manages to strike a comfortable chord with the reader throughout. The research presented throughout is completely peer-reviewed, and Kolbert manages to appeal to the general reader. Scientific evidence and theories are presented clearly and concisely, and I never felt “left out of the loop,” so to speak. While some of the book is certainly focused on providing information concerning past extinction events, and the occurance of such things in general, the real hook of this work is Kolbert’s analysis of contemporary issues. Several semingly unconnected phenomena perfectly fit patters that we have observed in extinction events throughout history, and the sheer quantity of similarities that Kolbert points out is both terrifying and an awesome display of the earth’s interconnectedness with all living things.

If ecological studies are your thing, or if you are a fan of historical works, this is one you will want to pick up. Scarily enough, if you enjoy reading disaster accounts or similar chronicles of nature, then The Sixth Extinction can certainly qualify as a nonfiction disaster account. Truthfully, Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction is a phenomenal example of how scientific nonfiction should be presented to the general reader, and is an eye-opening read that most anyone can walk away from awed. While I do not entirely agree with the scope of Kolbert’s predictions, the evidence is masterfully displayed: as always, whether you agree in the end with the author or not, examine a person’s argument from all sides, not from the assumption that they are right.

Source: Jake Depew, Assistant Editor