Week 4

Thursday, February 22, 2018
4:00 - 5:00 pm
STEW 302/306

Gordon G. McNickle, Assistant Professor of Botany and Plant Pathology, College of Agriculture, will be speaking on Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction.

The Sixth Extinction


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-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 prose that is at once frank, entertaining, and deeply informed, New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before. Interweaving research in half a dozen disciplines, descriptions of the fascinating species that have already been lost, and the history of extinction as a concept, Kolbert provides a moving and comprehensive account of the disappearances occurring before our very eyes. She shows that the sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy, compelling us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.


“Ms. Kolbert shows in these pages that she can write with elegiac poetry about the vanishing creatures of this planet, but the real power of her book resides in the hard science and historical context she delivers here, documenting the mounting losses that human beings are leaving in their wake.” ―The New York Times

“Your view of the world will be fundamentally changed. . . . Kolbert is an astute observer, excellent explainer, and superb synthesizer, and even manages to find humor in her subject matter.” ―The Seattle Times

“Throughout her extensive and passionately collected research, Kolbert offers a highly readable, enlightening report on the global and historical impact of humans . . . a highly significant eye-opener rich in facts and enjoyment.” ―Kirkus (starred review)

“Kolbert accomplishes an amazing feat in her latest book, which superbly blends the depressing facts associated with rampant species extinctions and impending ecosystem collapse with stellar writing to produce a text that is accessible, witty, scientifically accurate, and impossible to put down.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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