Book Review - The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

Introduction of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

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-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 prose that is at once frank, entertaining, and deeply informed, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before. 

Interweaving research in half a dozen disciplines, descriptions of the fascinating species that have already been lost, and the history of extinction as a concept, Kolbert provides a moving and comprehensive account of the disappearances occurring before our very eyes. 

She shows that the sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

Review: The Sixth Extinction Book
Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (January 6, 2015)
Language: English
Paperback: 336 pages
Item Weight: 10.6 ounces
Dimensions : 5.53 x 0.9 x 8.26 inches 


About the author Elizabeth Kolbert

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.

Excerpts from the original text (The Sixth Extinction quotes)

There is no reason to think that in a warmer world there will be less biodiversity than in a colder world, on the contrary, for some of the “latitude gradients of biodiversity”! The explanation hints at the possibility that after a long period of time-a a warm world has more diverse creatures. However, in a relatively short period of time, and also on the time scale of human relations, things are completely different.—— Quoted from page 239

"If the theory of evolution works in its usual way," Silman said, "then the scene of mass extinction-we don't care about it as extinction, but we will use a more euphemistic and beautiful term called ecological reduction' ——The scene will look like the end of the world."—— Quoted from page 240 

The Sixth Extinction book summary (Short Comment)

You can see from the work that this is indeed a very powerful and experienced writer, with vivid writing and solid theory, and a variety of very solid reference lists are clearly listed at the back of the book. (There are also a lot of new words. I have no patience to look up the dictionary after reading 2/3...) He is also very rational and restrained when discussing the relationship between humans, the environment, and other living things. I simply discuss it without trying to achieve personal goals through the influence of the work. This is something I admire.

The Sixth Extinction Book Review

I have read this book a long time ago. It should be a freshman at the time. Like all my young friends, I read it half-heartedly and gained a lot of knowledge. After two years, I studied paleontology, and I also did some paleoclimate work. I picked it up and read it again, and I felt deeply impressed.

The book is not thick, and the language is easy to approach. It mostly uses the author's own experience as a cut-out narrative-we are in the sixth mass extinction event in earth history, and we are his witnesses and witnesses. 

In addition, this book uses a certain amount of space to introduce the history of the development of geology, paleontology, and ecology, such as the relationship between the two academic founders of Lyle and Darwin.

I read an article before, and I was probably saying: Everyone had a dinosaur dream when they were young, but when they grow up, most scholars who are dinosaurs (paleontologists) show a sneering attitude. The paleontological dreams of foreign young people can grow a little longer. 

After all, there is the glorious history of ancient naturalists; and, the age of more than 20 years old, who fell in love with creatures hundreds of millions of years ago, may be affected by others. Blame the plaything for losing one's ambitions.

The Sixth Extinction chapter 1 summary - The Sixth Mass Extinction (Panama Golden Frog)

This chapter basically describes the current situation of the sixth mass extinction mentioned in this book and a partial detail, the current situation of the Panamanian golden frog on the verge of extinction, And pointed out that the culprit that led to this situation is the behavior of human biological migration. On this basis, it is pointed out that most of the species extinctions nowadays can be traced to the source and it can be found that in the final analysis it is caused by human activities.

"Bd chytrid interfered with the ability of frogs to absorb important electrolytes through the skin, and eventually caused them to suffer from a disease equivalent to myocardial infarction." "Currently, there seems to be no means to stop it." "The biologist proposed "background extinction." 

"The frequency of species extinctions is very low, even lower than the frequency of speciation. We call this the background extinction rate. The usual expression is the number of species extinctions per million species years."

The Sixth Extinction chapter 2 summary - Mastodon’s molars (American mastodon)

in Chapter 5, the author clearly stated that the scientific theoretical framework guiding the first half of this book is the paradigm shift of Thomas Kuhn’s scientific revolution. 

If the author does not point out this, by reading Chapter 2 and Chapter 3, readers can naturally perceive the author’s thinking model based on changes in his thinking. The author of this chapter introduces the concept of mass extinction. 

Cuvier first proposed the hypothesis of catastrophe based on a large number of fossil studies. His work also made the world realize that there are some animals that have become extinct and that they are not the ancestors of living creatures. Conceptually, it makes people realize that there are extinct species and the "past world" to be discovered. 

However, this part only mentions the concept of extinction and extinct organisms, and the extinction theory that led to the mass extinction of organisms did not appear.

"Through his speech "Elephant Species-Existing Species and Fossil Species", Cuvier successfully established and confirmed the concept of extinction." "Cuvier's discovery of "extinction" and even the "prehistoric world" The discovery was an extremely sensational event." "Almost the entire screen of Cuvier's own power, at this time there are 49 kinds of extinct vertebrates."

The Sixth Extinction chapter 3 summary - The original penguin (auk)

Unlike the previous chapter, Lyle and Darwin mentioned in this chapter do not support catastrophe theory. Due to the influence of the theoretical framework of natural selection theory, most people hold the view of uniformity theory, which does not consider actual fossil evidence. 

Reasonable inferences based on natural selection theory. Since species have evolved new species through natural selection, species will gradually become extinct due to their inability to adapt to the environment over a long period of time. This view dominated the paleontology community afterward.

In addition to interspersed with the above main points, this chapter also repeats Lyell's basic points, as well as the process of Darwin's research experience and the process of proposing the theory of natural selection, as well as the influence of this theory. In addition, the author also described his own process of investigating the extinct creature auk.

The Sixth Extinction Chapter 4 summary - The Luck of Ammonites (New Jersey Panship Ammonites)

Under the theoretical framework of uniformity theory, Alvarez and his son, based on the large number of iridium accumulations detected in samples obtained from multiple clay layers, proposed an asteroid collision hypothesis. 

This hypothesis has attracted the denial and condemnation of other researchers because, under the framework of uniformity theory, this is an exception that is difficult to explain by uniformity theory, which means that there are problems in uniformity theory that need to be partially corrected or completely overturned.

The author of this chapter describes the description of corollary of the planetary collision hypothesis, and how the planetary collision caused the extinction of the ammonites that were originally all over the ocean. It also mentioned the "Signor-Lipps effect", which is used to refute evidence that fossil evidence is unreasonable.

The Sixth Extinction chapter 5 summary - Welcome to the Anthropocene (Ripple Double Crane Grapestone)

The final debate between the Uniformism and Catastrophe Theory has recently made it an essential part of both, long-term stable accumulation + sudden environmental changes. Since mass extinction has officially entered people's sight, the hypothesis of periodic mass extinction has been proposed. Naturally, the mass extinction brought about by human behavior has also become a part of this cyclical history. 

Its remarkable sign is that human behavior can make the underground sediments of this generation after hundreds of millions of years be able to show the fossil changes brought about by human behavior. In this way, a record of the existence and influence of human beings is formed.

This part also mentions the first mass extinction, the mass extinction at the end of the Ordovician. It ended with Ordovician radiation. The author puts forward several hypotheses about the Ordovician mass extinction. 

The graptolite mentioned in this chapter became extinct during this period. The author finally quoted the concept of the Anthropocene, indicating that the Anthropocene may be selected as a geological one.

"The dominant paradigm is neither Cuvier's nor Darwin's, but a combination of key elements of the two." "The unified theory of mass extinction has emerged. The mass extinction seems to be 26 million years old. In other words, extinctions occur periodically."

The Sixth Extinction chapter 6 summary - The Ocean Surrounding Us (Mediterranean ray limpets).

This chapter and the next chapter mainly talk about the excessive emission of carbon dioxide, which makes the ocean water acidify and will make some organisms in the sea. Extinct. This chapter mainly talks about the acidification of seawater by carbon dioxide.

"Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, humans have burned enough fossil fuels to add a total of 365 billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere." "If the current trend continues, the carbon dioxide concentration will exceed 0.05% by 2050, which is almost the same. 

Twice the level before the industrial age. It will cause the global average temperature to rise by 2~4℃, which will trigger a series of events that will change the world, including the disappearance of most existing glaciers, the inundation of low-altitude islands and coastal cities, and the Arctic ice caps. Melting. "The pH is very important. 

Our human body spends a lot of energy to ensure that our blood maintains a constant pH. But some of these lower animals do not have the kind of physiological function to maintain a flat pH. "Marine biologists are just beginning to realize the dangers of acidification. 

"Unfortunately, the most obvious turning point, that is, the turning point at which the ecosystem begins to collapse, is at a plateau pH of about 7.8, which is expected to appear in the ocean in 2100. 

"By burning coal and oil and other mineral deposits, mankind releases the carbon that has been isolated for tens of millions of years into the air again. "

The Sixth Extinction chapter 7 summary - Acidification (Porous Staghorn Coral) 

This chapter mainly talks about the acidification of seawater due to excessive carbon dioxide emissions. Coral reefs will eventually die out due to factors such as erosion.

"The area where coral reefs grow is vast, like a belt wrapped around the belly of the earth, distributed between 30° north latitude and 30° south latitude. "The high level of carbon dioxide in the air causes the pH of the "ocean" to drop. "The polyps that build coral reefs are very sensitive to saturation. 

"Coral reefs are often compared with Yulin." In terms of the diversity of life forms, this comparison is appropriate. "In the history of the earth, reefs like coral reefs have appeared and disappeared several times. "

The Sixth Extinction chapter 8 summary - Forests and Trees (Whistling double-winged fruit trees)

This chapter and the next chapter focus on the Amazon forest area. This chapter mainly discusses the impact of temperature rise on the Amazon forest area. Due to the gradient of diversity dimensions, the biodiversity of tropical forest areas is abnormal. Rich. The author and the researcher Sillman walked through the 17 forest blocks that he marked. 

The biological distribution of each block is different. The rising global temperature changes the biological conditions of these 17 blocks and keeps them constantly Advance to higher latitudes. The relationship between species-area can always estimate the number of extinct humans.

"One theory is that more species live in the tropics because the evolutionary clock there moves faster. The more generations, the greater the chance of genetic mutation. The second theory is that the reason why there are more species in the tropics is that tropical organisms are pickier about the environment." 

"Species-area relationship" is summarized as the formula S=cAz, S is the number of species, A is the area size, and c and z are constants. Thinking about the issue of extinction, the species-area relationship is the key. What human beings do to this world is actually equivalent to reducing A everywhere. "The theory that diversity is a function of time." 

"Another theory about the rich diversity of tropical regions is that it is a more intense competition that pushes species toward a more specialized direction and that more specialized different organisms can co-exist in the same limited space."

The Sixth Extinction chapter 9 summary - Lonely Island on the Road (Devil ants)

This chapter mainly explains that there are very close and fixed survival relationships between various species in the Amazon forest. The relationship between each other is difficult to maintain, which will lead to the decline of species diversity in the forest.

The Sixth Extinction chapter 10 summary - New Pangea (Little Brown Bat)

This chapter explains the phenomenon of the migration of a large number of organisms along with human traffic. Human behavior has invalidated the millions of years of species isolation and changed the redistribution of global organisms. Eventually, this lead to a decline in global biodiversity. 

The little brown bat discussed in this chapter was originally a common species in some states of the continental United States, but with the invasion of pathogens, it has become an endangered species in just a few years.

"Most potential invaders are not in stock. The second result is called "settlement." Many settled species may always be confined to the place where they enter, or some are completely harmless and will not be noticed. However, a certain number of invasive species have completed the third step of the invasion process, that is, "proliferation." 

Once out of Africa, it begins." "The "discovery" of the geography of the new world launched an unusually large-scale biological exchange competition, which is the so-called "Columbus exchange", bringing the process of the new Pangea to a whole new level. On."

The Sixth Extinction chapter 11 summary - Rhinoceros ultrasound (Sumatran rhino)

This chapter and the next talk about the direct extinction of other species by humans. What this chapter wants to show is that although large species with a huge advantage in evolution, even though they are large enough to have no natural enemies in nature, they are still prepared to escape the fate of being extinct by humans. 

Due to its long reproductive cycle and low reproduction rate, as long as early humans caught a small amount of megafauna every year, megafauna would die out with the accumulation of centuries, and then due to the large time span, humans could not realize that these species were going extinct.

"This is the advantage of huge size. It may be called a "big enough not to be afraid" strategy. From an evolutionary point of view, this is a good strategy. In fact, the earth has been extremely huge at different times in history. Occupied by creatures." "For a very large mammalian alcohol reproduction rate, it is actually living in a marginal state."

The Sixth Extinction chapter 12 summary - Crazy Genes (Neanderthals)

Human behavior also led to the extinction of Neanderthals in Africa, which came out of humans before humans. Although studies have shown that during the extinction process of this population, there was mating with humans and retained genetic genes. 

With some Neanderthal genes, this phenomenon also happened to the Denisovans who were later discovered. (It is understandable that this phenomenon is so normal that when the early Europeans immigrated to North America, it caused a large number of Indians to die.)

"The time when modern humans reached Europe was about 40,000 years ago. Since then, as long as they advance to a certain area, Neanderthals live in areas where Neanderthals will disappear. The decline in their numbers is in line with the familiar extinction pattern. 

Before humans finally wiped out Neanderthals, humans had mated with them. Today. Most of the people have a small amount of Neanderthal ancestry, up to about 4%." 

"Only real modern humans have begun to take this kind of risky behavior, daring to float on the ocean where no land can be seen." Bo thinks it is possible to find the genetic basis behind our "crazy" by comparing Neanderthal and human DNA."

The Sixth Extinction chapter 13 summary - Feathered Things (Homo sapiens)

This chapter summarizes the meaning of the previous chapters.

Overall evaluation: 

The entire book is not difficult to read. Readers with basic common sense can easily understand all the ideas involved in the book. The writing of the work is not very serious. In addition to opinions and illustrations, most of the authors are reviewing the history of the subject, the lives of scientists, and their own fieldwork experience. 

The chapter arrangement of the book is obviously suspected of deliberately catering to the tastes of popular readers. The main points of the book can actually be written very concisely and cleanly, but the author has adopted a large number of narrative writing rather than explanatory writing, which greatly improves the readability of the work.

I know that the species at the top of the food chain will naturally have a niche advantage above all else, but this does not mean that humans have detached from the ecological environment and truly rule everything. We are still part of the earth, no different from the lions on the grasslands, the orangutans in the jungle, and the ants on the roadside.

After studying geology for a while, I don’t feel like protecting the environment like a primary school student. This is how the earth is. It will never stop turning because of one more or one fewer species, and human beings are just ordinary members, and sooner or later they will end their lives. 

The evil results you do now will have a lot of effects on yourself in the future. Maybe our generation will see some of them, but more of them will be on the offspring.

According to Darwin's theory of evolution, there will be signs of more advanced humans in the future, and we will be replaced by them in tens of thousands of years. At that time, the new humans will piece together a skeleton and put it in the exhibition hall.

"Look! This is the once overlord of the earth."

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