The Sixth Extinction–Review

This one won the Pulitzer, so it doesn’t really matter what I think, but I’ll add my voice to the chorus of cheerleaders anyway.

To sum it up, the book is more enlightening than an evening with Einstein, more nerve-wracking than an afternoon walk in a stand-your-ground neighborhood, scarier than Donald Trump’s hair, more ominous than a mushroom cloud, more honest than Abe.

Elizabeth Colbert is a terrific researcher and a wonderful writer. What sets creative nonfiction apart from everyday, humdrum, dry, boring nonfiction, is voice. And she has given this piece of writing an engaging voice, loud and clear and undeniable (unless you’ve just arrived from Venus, where things are a lot hotter) and full of life and interesting facts and yes, humor, even in the face of tragic tales of what man is doing to the planet. She (I’m not going to say literally, because the word literally has become a metaphorical pain in the ass) traveled the globe, talked to the world’s most respected scientists in their fields, got out in the wilds of such diverse places as South America and New Jersey, got dirty, hot, cold, tired, wet, to do her research.

She does a great job of cataloging and explaining the five earlier extinctions that have affected earth (the ones that happened naturally), and the ongoing (and unnatural) one. The Sixth Extinction. Sadly, it’s the only one that we can do something about, but very little is being done about it. Even more distressing: We’re the culprits.

Is it too late? Have we passed the tipping point? Some scientists think so. Others think it’s approaching, rapidly, and by the time societies wake up, by the time the deniers and don’t-cares and money-grubbers and incompetents and other fools have been silenced, finally, the opportunity that remains, the chance to reverse the tide of disaster that will fall heavily on the shoulders of our grandchildren and great grandchildren, will have vanished.

This book should be required reading for anyone signing up to run for public office. They should have to listen to the audio version as they drive around in their luxury V-8s and fall asleep at night in their air-conditioned 4,000 square-foot homes. They should be tested on it for comprehension and given lie-detector tests to find out if they believe what they’ve heard and read.

No one will require those things of you. But if you haven’t done so already, read the book.


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