Intellectual Heritage 852 Section 082

Yuan 1

Yaozong Yuan

Bill Coleman

Intellectual Heritage 852 Section 082


Elizabeth Kolbert: The Sixth Extinction

Elizabeth Kolbert organizes the chapters in the sixth extinction in Romanic aspects. Each roman number entails a chapter in which Kolbert clearly defines the subject matter and the theme revealed in the specific chapter. The chapter’s organization starts with a prologue, which gives an overview of what the book entails. Firstly, the prologue dates back to two hundred thousand years when new species started to emerge. The species have had a versatile knowledge of geographical movement ranging from seas, lands, plateaus and mountain ranges. The species faced no constraints of geographical location, climate restrictions, predators, preys as well as different habitation. In fact, wherever the species settled they adapted the habitat and even innovated in the specific habitat.

However, the problem arises when the initial species found in the habitats by the travelers lacks the skill of defending and securing themselves from the newcomers. The resultant of the ill-equipped aspect leads the initial species to succumb (Kolbert, 4), thus clearing the way for the newcomers to habituate and have dominion over the initial species. To some extent, the initial species upon succumbing they go to an extinct since most of them are slow inbreeding, and thus they become wiped out. Similarly, the intrusion of newcomers brings rise to survival for the fitness and thus the cycle continues. On the other hand, the Homo sapiens species reproduces at an unprecedented rate, (Kolbert, p.15) thus doubling its population, thus leading to the clearance of large forest to provide settlements for the Homo sapiens. Clearing of the forests makes organisms shift from one locality to another, change of the atmospheric composition, alteration of the climate and chemistry in the forest, extinction becomes high and thus an overall change in the life texture of species.

The first chapter, titled The Sixth Extinction (Kolbert, p.4), raises the curtain by introducing the frog species and their endangered outcomes. The extinction aspect had entirely spread among the golden-skinned frog species around the El Valle hills. The disappearance of the frogs was at an alarming rate that came into the notice of biologists. As a result, golden from species was conformed indoors due to insufficient lab facilities, where they stood treated as guests checked in a five-star hotel. The extinction of golden frog gave Kolbert an awaking reasoning of the extinction of other species such as dinosaurs, plesiosaurs, ammonites among others. The chapter reflects an image of yellow-legged frogs on top of a cliff all dead. One would care to wonder the cause of the death of the frogs as the picture appears to trigger a head scratching thought. Studies also indicate that lasts of amphibians could have existed and gone extinct without any notice. The fact of been unnoticed affirms to herpetologists statements that amphibians fossils are very fragile and thus so rare.

The second chapter titled The Mastodon’s Molars, (Kolbert, p.26) takes a reflection of the effigy left behind as proves that such animals once existed. The chapter relates to a child been given a dinosaur toy yet he has never come across one. Similarly, the chapter goes ahead to indicate that during the Renaissance period marked by great scholars such as Aristotle the term and idea of extinction were far from the mind. During that time, most historical books such as the History of Animals by Aristotle and Linnaeus, (Kolbert, p.29) contribution in the binomial nomenclature only viewed the living and dead organism but not the extinct species.

The following chapters also precedent themselves in Roman numbers starting from Roman I which curtain raises the idea of extinction and the extinct species all the way to Roman number XII titled The Thing with Feathers, (Kolbert, p.259).

Chapter VI titled The Sea aroundUs, (Kolbert, p.111) took a look at the endangered sea species. The one aspect that puts sea creatures in danger is the emission of carbon dioxide gases from the violent volcanic eruptions. Once the gas reaches the sea, it dissolves in water to form an acidic composition. When the gas dissolves in water it is absorbed into the system of sea creates. Upon reaching the breathing systems, it clogs the respiratory systems thus leading to suffocation and even death.

Also, waste products from industries directed along the sea forms a coat around the sea. As a result, air circulation is hindered towards reaching the sea creatures thus amounting to death. Also, the clogging of the sea surface not only leads to the death of sea creatures but also interferes with their breeding system. The gases and waste products released into the sea hinders fertilization whereby the egg of most sea creature become contaminated, and thus they fail to breed. Also, upon successful interbreeding, the eggshells in most cases are weak, and thus the breed turns out to be a weak species and thus dies due to natural selection. In other words, sea creatures are faced with the threat of extinction due to low fertility and poor interbreeding aspects.

On other note, the aquatic creatures are faced with the piercing by various biologists, herpetologists and individuals who study sea creatures. Taking of sea creatures sample for laboratory use leads to the interference of the breeding system as well as the ecosystem of the sea creatures. In some instances, the scientists, biologists and herpetologists go through various scientific steps that are bombarded with trial and error. In between, the samples taken for further research either dies within the research proves or becomes irrelevant.

In such situation, the researchers go back to the drawing roots of the sea in search of new species thus the cycle continues repeatedly. Creatures living on the island are covered in the titles of The Islands on Dry Lands and The Thing with Feathers, (Kolbert, p.173). Land creatures take the form of land animals and air creatures such as a bird. The land creatures come into very close contact with the Homo sapiens species. Therefore, they are termed to be the most endangered species in Kolbert’s Sixth Extinction books. The chapters look into the human nature regarding creativity, innovation and intelligence. The activities of industrialization, technology, globalization and urbanization have placed a great danger to land species.

Some of the highlighted aspects major towards human activities of interference with the atmosphere, climate, forests and an overall effect on the ozone layer. In return, the human activities lead to the destruction of habitats, poaching, and killing of animals thus leading to the interference of the ecosystem. Most of the industries such as textile require animals’ skills for the manufacture of skin products. As a result, the land species are poached and killed to access their skins. On the other aspect, the industries, deforestation activities destroy habitation of animals forcing them to relocate to other areas. In return, due to nature selection and interference with the food chain, the land creatures are faced with the shortage of food and habitation thus leading an endangered life.

The VII chapter of The Forrest and the Trees, (Kolbert, p.148) gives a clear outline of the habitation and the usefulness of maintaining the species habitation. The chapter looks into the interior structure of various species habitation and the connectivity with the surrounding world. The chapter traces the originality of species and their habitation, which was vast, covered with trees that formed forests, as well as water body masses.

However, the geographical distribution and movement of Homo sapiens arising from the quest of knowledge and innovation marked the beginning of the crisis. In their motive of curiosity and innovation, vast lands were cleared to pave the way for settlement and start of industries. In return, the land species had to move from one biosphere to the next in search of habitation. As if that was not enough, the human species employed the tactic of “the frog hotel”, an article read by Kolbert. In such a case, land species were caged in an area for monitoring and paving the way for land to practice agriculture, industrialization and urbanization. Therefore, species were restricted in movement and their new engaged locality, transmitted diseases thus causing their death and eventual extinction easily affected them.

In conclusion, Kolbert clearly presents her case by giving proves regarding a recap of the past events through articles, storybooks, and oral literature. In this area, Kolbert entails the reader to look into the current state of affairs and thus relate them to the past and to map out how the future will turn out to be because of Homo sapiens activities.

Also, Kolbert brings together the views of various scholars and their works together such as Charles Darwin on the origin of species, Aristotle on his book of The Animal History and the works of binomial nomenclature by Linnaeus. Also, Kolbert looks into the works of various scientists, paleontology, herpetology and anthropology and observes the terrain of emergency, crisis and extinction of species resulting from human activities. Once brought together, the views form a strong basis for her claims and in that some, Kolbert clearly presents her case and thus there is no speck of failure of her case.


Kolbert, Elizabeth.The sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014. Print.

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