Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 171
Elizabeth Kolbert's 2014 book argues the next mass extinction of plants and animals that the world will experience will be the result of humanity's heedless behavior. To use her words, Kolbert asserts, "the cataclysm is us."
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Kolbert lays out her argument in thirteen chapters informed by research from botanists, marine biologists, geologists, wildlife biologists, and climatologists. Human activities including the damming of rivers, deforestation, habitat destruction, burning fossil fuels, ocean acidification from rising carbon dioxide levels, and moving strains of viruses and bacteria around the world through global travel and trade all wreak havoc on the planet's ecosystems and will lead, she avers, to extinctions of between 20% and 50% of flora and fauna species before the end of the twenty-first century.
The book contains carefully synthesized research written in language accessible to non-scientists, and Kolbert ends the book with a call to action. She expresses her informed belief that the measures we are taking to shift the paradigm must be maintained and expanded to avoid the mass extinctions that will otherwise become inevitable.