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The Coming Sixth Extinction

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Over the last half a 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, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert, looks at the issue and at researchers working in the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef.

 

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Elizabeth Kolbert
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Comments [13]

Charles from Tribeca

Is it possible to start holding climate change deniers funders along with their PR companies, spokes persons and politicians financially and criminally accountable? Who's climate is it? Who's air, water and land is it?

Feb. 27 2014 01:08 PM
Ed from Larchmont

It's one thing to recognize it ... but can anything be done?

Feb. 27 2014 12:51 PM
Ed from Larchmont

It seems to me that things will happen quickly.

It's not humanity per se, it's sin: war and natural disasters are the result of sin (Mary).

Feb. 27 2014 12:50 PM
John A

Almost too clever, Hugh.
Still let's remember to look at This extinction as the one we're responsible for. And it would be terrible if part of the extinction included "only" 1% or 10% of Our species, which is also possible.
Congrats on your post at WNYC BTW.

Feb. 27 2014 12:50 PM

No reason to think that Stephen Hawking would be right on this, but he believes that Homo sapiens will be extinct within 500 years. A disturbingly large number of biologists think that this is possible.

Feb. 27 2014 12:47 PM
Moshe Feder from Flushing,

Leonard just mis-spoke. The Tasmanian Tiger (not a feline) is extinct, but the Tasmanian Devil, while threatened, is still with us.

Feb. 27 2014 12:46 PM
Anita from New York, NY

Did Darwin's father or grandfather also have some sort of theory of evolution? I read a German Romantic novella from 1799 that talks about Darwin and his theories of what sounds a lot like evolution.

Feb. 27 2014 12:43 PM

Looking at the fossil record, mass extinctions and massive climate change have gone hand in hand. Will global warming be a boom for some animals and a bust for others like polar animals?

Feb. 27 2014 12:41 PM

The Great Oxygenation Event happened about 2.4 billion years. Perhaps, 10 million years from now, aliens will visit, study Earth extensively, and conclude that the next largest extinction event occurred when a species arose that destroyed itself and millions of other species.

(Elizabeth Kolbert is wrong in saying that this would be the only one caused by a species — though maybe she meant "animal" literally. The oxygen revolution was caused by a species that produced oxygen as a waste product.)

Feb. 27 2014 12:39 PM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D. from BK

According to the United Nations the biggest cause of carbon dioxide levels is the methane gas from cattle. Go Vegan!

Feb. 27 2014 12:33 PM
Ed from Larchmont

I remember reading about people watching as the last dodo walked around the island looking for a mate, a terrifying scene. (For animals, the species dominates over the individual, for man they are of equal value. We might feel the same horror whenever a human being is killed.)

Feb. 27 2014 11:45 AM
Ed from Larchmont

I remember reading about people watching as the last dodo walked around the island looking for a mate, a terrifying scene. (For animals, the species dominates over the individual, for man they are of equal value. We might feel the same horror whenever a human being is killed.)

Feb. 27 2014 11:39 AM
Ed from Larchmont

The way things are going in the world we'll be lucky if we don't do ourselves in before nature does. Yet -

'Though the mountains fall into the sea, even then would I trust.' Psalms.

I wonder if he had the ice sheets in mind.

Feb. 27 2014 10:29 AM

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