Book Review with a Side of Hyperbole, Please . . .
If you're only going to read one book this year, it should be War and Peace, but if you're going to read two books this year, then the other one should be Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History; while the message is grim, the writing is clear and engaging, and Kolbert narrates her own adventures in places as far-flung and varied as the Amazon, the Andes, the Great Barrier Reef, Italy, Vermont, and a littered fossil-filled stream in an undisclosed location near a ball field in the vicinity of Princeton, New Jersey to provide a counterpoint to some shockingly depressing lessons and predictions, and while I shouldn't be doing this, because you must read this book, I will provide a thumb-nail sketch of the content . . . before humans, there were five major extinctions, and "as in Tolstoy, every extinction event appears to be unhappy-- and fatally so-- in its own way"; there was the well-documented K-Pg extinction event (formerly known as the K-T extinction event) which wiped out the dinosaurs sixty-six million years ago, when a huge asteroid hit the earth near the Yucatan Peninsula, but the four other extinction events are more mysterious . . . they may have been because of climate change, shifting continents, habitat loss, and/or ocean acidification (global warming's "equally evil twin") and Kolbert wants to welcome us to the sixth extinction event, the Anthropocene, where all of these forces -- cranked up to a much faster velocity-- are wiping out species faster than we can count them, and there is an apt comparison deep in the book, after Kolbert recounts the story of the brown tree snake, an invasive species that has voraciously eaten every indigenous bird, mammal, and reptile on the island of Guam, and she cites the great nature writer David Quammen for this analogy: "while it is easy to demonize the brown tree snake, the animal is not evil; it's just amoral and in the wrong place . . . what Boiga irregularis has done in Guam is precisely what Homo sapiens has done all over the planet: succeed extravagantly at the expense of other species."