Books like The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

2014, Elizabeth Kolbert


The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History is a 2014 non-fiction book written by Elizabeth Kolbert and published by Henry Holt and Company. The book argues that the Earth is in the midst of a modern, man-made, sixth extinction. In the book, Kolbert chronicles previous mass extinction events, and compares them to the accelerated, widespread extinctions during our present time. She also describes specific species extinguished by humans, as well as the ecologies surrounding prehistoric and near-present extinction events. The author received the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for the book in 2015.

The target audience is the general reader, and scientific descriptions are rendered in understandable prose. The writing blends explanations of her treks to remote areas with interviews of scientists, researchers, and guides, without advocating a position, in pursuit of objectivity. Hence, the sixth mass extinction theme is applied to flora and fauna existing in diverse habitats, such as the Panamanian rainforest, the Great Barrier Reef, the Andes, Bikini Atoll, city zoos, and the author's own backyard. The book also applies this theme to a number of other habitats and organisms throughout the world. After researching the current mainstream view of the relevant peer-reviewed science, Kolbert estimates flora and fauna loss by the end of the 21st century to be between 20 and 50 percent "of all living species on earth".

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