The 6th Extinction

The 6th Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

Published By: Henry Holt and Co.

Year of Publication: 2014

Categories: Non Fiction.

Pages: 319

Summary (from

A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes. 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 around, the cataclysm is us. In The Mastodon’s Molars, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into 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. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind’s most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.


I really enjoyed reading The 6th Extinction. Although I usually go for fiction books, I’m glad I went out of my comfort zone to try this one. The writing was great considering it covered a lot of ground, and I learned a lot.

First off, I can’t believe that people don’t care about the earth, it’s plants, and it’s animals. Reading this book make me want to do even more for the environment. It’s pretty sad when you realize how many animals are going extinct. It’s happening way faster than I thought. It’s sad to think that once they’re gone, they’re gone forever. I work with native plants, and I’ve come to appreciate them so much since I started this job. They grow almost effortlessly outside, yet we put so much effort into growing them in the greenhouse. I can only imagine how much effort goes into researching animals and trying trying to protect them.

Every chapter focused on one topic – everything from frogs to Neanderthals. Elizabeth Kolbert also travelled the world to make her points – from the Amazon rainforest to Siberia. It was great to get a worldwide view. At the same time it was also kind of scary to know that no part of the planet is safe from having animals disappear forever. Reading it also made me kind of angry with people who would pay for a horn or tusk, knowing that they come from endangered animals, and that those animals were killed in the process of getting them.

I know I’ll be more aware of how I treat the planet after reading The 6th Extinction. While I know there are something things that are harder for people to change, I know I’ll be making a bigger effort to do my part. I take transit to school, but once in awhile I’ll drive. I don’t think I’ll be doing that anymore. I’m usually pretty good at recycling and reusing things as well, but I’ve noticed since I’ve started reading this book I’ve been even better at it.

If you’re at all interested in how humans impact our planet, you should definitely give The 6th Extinction a read.


Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the library.


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