The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

Written by Elizabeth Colbert

OPL BOOK SUMMARY: Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book is a powerful read that helps us understand our impact on the planet. In 1500 there were about 500,000 people on the planet; today there are over 7 billion. People have been to every location around the world and made changes in our wake. Simultaneously with humans dominating the planet, plants and animals are dying off at abnormally fast rates.

This human-dominated period was coined the Anthropocene by Paul Crutzen. “Among the many geological-scale changes people have effected, Crutzen cited the following:

  • Human activity has transformed between 1/3 -1/2 of the land surface of the planet.
  • Most of the rivers of the world have been dammed or diverted.
  • Fertilizer plants produce more nitrogen than is fixed naturally by all terrestrial ecosystems.
  • Fisheries remove more than 1/3rd of the primary production of the ocean’s coastal waters.
  • Humans use more than half the world’s readily accessible freshwater runoff.”

The Sixth Extinction is deeply researched and at the same time is a flowing read. She takes us on a journey and helps us understand so we can begin to act in a way that is more sustaining to all life.

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