SCIENCES

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

Holt. Feb. 2014. 352p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780805092998. $28. SCI
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OrangeReviewStarEvidence of a human-made mass extinction seems everywhere around us: long lists of endangered species, high concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air and oceans, and biodiversity losses from deforestation of the tropics. New Yorker staff writer Kolbert (Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change) traveled all over the world to interview marine biologists, atmospheric scientists, geologists, forest ecologists, and paleontologists about their take on the Sixth Extinction (five other major extinctions have occurred in Earth's history). Tracing how extinction itself evolved as a scientific concept, Kolbert discusses the great animal extinctions of the past as well as the imminent loss of present-day animals such as the Sumatran rhino and the little brown bat.
VERDICT The charm of this book (inasmuch as a book about extinction can have charm) lies in Kolbert's hands-on approach to her subject—searching for Panamanian frogs in the dark, hunting for graptolite fossils in Scotland, and observing coral spawning at Australia's Great Barrier Reef. This solid, engaging, multidisciplinary science title should appeal to a broad range of science enthusiasts, particularly those interested in environmental conservation.

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