The Sixth Extinction

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Evaluating The Sixth Extinction’s Conclusion Throughout The Sixth Extinction, author Elizabeth Kolbert explains how several different natural species have gone extinct or seen their populations dwindle. Each section is unique: no species dies the same way. Kolbert elaborates how extinction has never been uniformitarian or catastrophist but rather a combination of the two. Consequently, the last chapter effectively demonstrates the tragedy of an anthropogenic based extinction but fails to express any urgency or necessity in conjunction with prior sections. The majority of chapters revolve around minute or underappreciated organisms, resulting in a disconnect with the reader. For example, frogs, coral, and ammonites are underwhelming animals…show more content…
This is not particularly surprising as many of the chapters are written without a meaningful timeline and describe previous extinctions we no longer have control over. For instance, the sections dealing with the ammonites, dinosaurs, and mastodons have limited social commentary because of their general irrelevance to the modern world. However, Kolbert still refrains from voicing immediate action even when discussing the acidification of the oceans and coral bleaching. In the “Welcome to the Anthropocene” chapter, several statistics are rattled off including, “Fisheries remove more than a third of the primary production of the oceans’ coastal waters [and] Humans use more than half of the world’s readily accessible fresh water runoff” (108). Despite these seemingly worrisome conditions, Kolbert does not provide any direct opinion or action for us to follow. This is completely understandable though, especially if the author wants to maintain a strictly scientific and research based approach to The Sixth Extinction. The tone and structure of the interior passages are not conducive to personal opinion and thus it is not particularly surprising to see each chapter devoid of them. However, one would expect Kolbert to revisit these issues and present a closing opinion within the conclusion. Instead, the author simply provides two juxtaposing stances on…show more content…
As mentioned in the prior paragraph, Kolbert describes an out for humanity; she elaborates on how humans can continue through wanton destruction of nature and get away with it, completely unscathed. This small statement has the ability to immediately alienate a significant portion of the population. Those who prioritize human growth and achievement will see this as a way to completely ignore the previous five extinctions and all twelve chapters in the book. Many might finish the conclusion and simply have a ‘so what?’ mentality. However, Kolbert fails on a much greater magnitude than just this small section of the finale. Throughout the entirety of the book and especially in the conclusion, the author describes an unavoidable sixth anthropogenic based extinction. These theme of inevitability is present in nearly every chapter. The frogs cannot be released back into the wild (14), the mastodons, penguins, and ammonites are gone, we are reversing “geologic history not only in reverse but at warp speed” (124), coral and trees have already died, and we have hunted the megafauna into extinction. Like mentioned in the previous paragraph, Kolbert was perhaps being diligent and did not want to dilute her work with hypothetical models and predictions that mapped the future; in this case, one would expect the author to bring up the benefits of environmentally friendly
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