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The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

Key insights from Elizabeth Kolbert's

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History


Key insights from Elizabeth Kolbert's

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

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Length:
14 minutes

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Our greatest legacy may be what we have destroyed.

Archeological and geological records reveal uneventful stretches of history in which species lived in relative peace. But these stretches are punctuated by events — called the Big Five — so cataclysmic that the very ecological makeup of the planet was forever altered. Another big event is now taking place. Unlike the asteroids or glaciations of prehistoric events, the Sixth Extinction is being caused by a completely different source: humankind.

Read this Snapshot if you:

  • Care about prehistoric events
  • Are curious about your impact on the species around you
  • Want to glimpse the future of ecology on earth
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Introduction

Roughly 200,000 years ago a new species emerged. While not the strongest or fastest species, these early Homo sapiens were unusually resourceful. Instead of remaining confined by geography, they spread out and faced new climates, predators, and habitats. With each new experience they adapted and learned new ways of living.

They met new species, from massive turtles to giant bears. They even met species not too dissimilar to themselves. But contact with the Homo sapiens wiped out nearly all of these species. Homo sapiens soon filled the entire globe and began to reproduce at a...

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