The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert - review by Richard Fortey

Richard Fortey


The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History


Bloomsbury 336pp £20

Casu marzu is a Sardinian cheese full of living maggots, and an image of this delicacy popped unbidden into my mind as I read about what we humans are doing to our fellow creatures. As we proliferate, other species die out. This is not simply a phenomenon of the industrial age. In The Sixth Extinction Elizabeth Kolbert acknowledges that destructiveness is a lethal characteristic of our species, as intrinsic as the spots on a leopard, and that extermination is something we have been doing for more than ten thousand years.

This is not the first book about the biggest bout of extinction since the demise of the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago; we are in the sixth mass extinction in the history of our planet, and the first caused by the actions of a single species. Tim Flannery, Jared Diamond

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