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Choose one of the following topics based on Elizabeth’s Kolbert The Sixth Extinction.  Do not respond to the topic questions “point by point.”  Instead, develop a unifying thesis that you can develop fully in the course of your essay.  Organize your points into an organic whole, and remember to use transitions that effectively connect your ideas.   Avoid writing a summary in response to the topic; this essay requires textual analysis.

  1. Choose oneof the following subjects. 
  • Panamanian golden frog
  • Great auk
  • Ammonites
  • Coral reefs
  • Brown bat
  • Sumatran rhino
  • Neanderthal

What is the nature and condition of your subject?  Make your analysis thorough, specific, and focused on the subject’s unique situation in time and place.

In your discussion, assess the role of human activity and long-term consequences.

Link your discussion to Kolbert’s central arguments in The Sixth Extinction.

  1. According to Kolbert, this year (2106) scientists will vote on whether to designate a new epoch -- beginning anywhere from the Industrial Revolution to post-WW II -- called the “Anthropocene,” in consequence of massive human interference that will affect our planet for millions of years.  For this paper, review what human-driven changes Kolbert examines.   Using evidence that she provides, analyze one of these human-driven changes, for instance its causes and motivations; then, evaluate and respond to the strength of Kolbert’s conclusions.  
  1. As smart as humansare, we resist absorbing disruptive information. But, eventually, the crisis engendered by the disruption must force us toward recognition, e. a  “paradigm shift.”  This pattern of resistance (to the point of tragedy) followed by accepting a new reality is a recurrent pattern even in literature. The pattern greets great scientific discoveries. (Remember when the earth was flat?) Based on your reading of The Sixth Extinction, what paradigm shift has the science that studies extinction brought about? Is it urgent for humans to embrace this paradigm shift?  Why or why not?  Be specific.
  1. Write an overall analysis of Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinctionthat draws from the following:
  • Author’s thesis, conclusions, solutions
  • Methods of argument (induction, deduction) – give examples
  • Research (consider end-notes and bibliography along with the text) – give examples
  • Arrangement of the chapters and content
  • Purpose (consider audience as part of purpose)

Organize your points into a thesis-driven, organized, and interesting paper.

Incorporate your own reflections.

  1. Kolbert begins the book with an epigraph from E.O. Wilson that reads “…In the instant of achieving self-understanding in the mind of man, life has doomed its most beautiful creation.” What qualities do humans possess that have caused and still cause extinctions -- even of our close Neanderthal “relatives” -- but may finally serve the cause of preservation? What are scientists and others doing to stem mass extinctions of non-human species? Are these efforts sufficient? Base your paper on the text of The Sixth Extinction.

The Relationship between Human Beings and the Environment

The emergence of the human beings in history is marked by both a stunning achievement and massive destruction. Despite the human beings being the highest species, they are still the most destructive. They utilize the authority, bravery, and thinking capacity that they have to make the environments more unbearable for the other creatures. Kolbert in her book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History covers this subject extensively. She traces the extinction of some species that had existed millions of years ago.

Human beings' desire to gain more from the environment has led to increased activity on the initially conserved forests. Most animal and plant species have their habitats in these thick forests. Clearing the forests for settlement and industrial development endangers the lives of the species. The creation of more industries has far-reaching consequences which affect the entire ecosystem. The industrial effects range from acidifying the water masses, releasing excess greenhouse gases and depleting the ozone layer.

Kolbert is moved by the efforts that the scientists channel towards preserving the environmental biodiversity. The inspiration makes her believe that the entire humanity will learn the measures to apply to save the world. Making the right decisions as a society will allow for harmonious living with the other species. Succinctly, Kolbert successfully manages to convince the human beings that mass extinction is a reality and results from their activities. This approach lays a good foundation for the humans to rethink their life-threatening activities that endanger biodiversity.

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History is a non-fictional book published in 2014. The book authored by Elizabeth Kolbert gives an account and traces the continuing mass extinction crisis in the contemporary geological epoch. Kolbert, in the book, argues that the only life-supporting planet is in the midst of an artificial modern humanmade extinction. She gives chronicles of the earlier witnessed mass extinction incidents and relates them to the ongoing widespread and accelerated extinctions. She backs up these by offering a description of individual species that have become extinct as a result of human actions. Essentially, the entire book is an account that attempts to explain the epigraph at the start from E.O Wilson. As such, the book is more of a development of the statement rather than a series of disconnected events attributed to the divisions into different chapters.  Human beings in their quest and exhibition of knowledge have led to disgrace to the other beautiful creation. This nature of the human beings could be highly blamed for most extinctions including their closest Neanderthal relatives. Although human activity puts the lives of the entire creation at risk the scientists are tirelessly playing their role to ensure that the earth does not lose its biodiversity. The efforts of the scientists are however not adequate owing to the fact that extinction is a social problem that requires social solutions.

The Role of Human Activity in Endangering Species

Kolberts in her much educative book on the ecosystems explores the relationship between the highest creation (human beings) and the environment outside them. This informs her conclusion that the human activities and behavior are on the verge of causing a mass extinction (sixth) if they have not caused it already. The massive decline of undeveloped land prompts the other species to migrate. Some species are even killed in the process of development. Those that migrate to alternative lands because competition in the inhabited areas and the less adapted species end up becoming extinct. The excessive developments by human beings are associated with other calamities such as high temperatures, climate change and the depletion of the ozone layer. For instance, Kolbert alludes to the golden frogs in Panama. She says that the population of the species once impossible to avoid has fallen to comprise only of a few dozens. These are not just endangered species on the verge of extinction as there are numerous that have disappeared. Kolbert backs this by referring to Cuvier’s claims, “if there were four extinct species, Cuvier declared there must be others” (Kolbert 18). However, most people hardly understand these facts.

The human activities do not end on the lands. The species living in water masses such as oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers also suffer from the human desire to gain more understanding. In the modern world, the factories and industries ran by human beings find water masses as the ideal locations to dump their waste. This leads to the accumulation of acid in the water habitats putting the lives of the inhabiting species in danger. “Ocean acidification increases the cost of calcification by reducing the number of carbonate ions available to begin with" (Kolbert 114). Basically, species within the ecosystem are dependent on one another. As thus, the extinction or endangering of one puts the other at the risk of extinction. In the sea, for instance, animal species rely on the plant species for food and respiration. “Thousands—perhaps millions—of species have evolved to rely on coral reefs, either directly for protection or food, or indirectly, to prey on those species that come seeking protection or food” (Kolbert 129). The fact that the coral reefs are facing an extinction threat endangers the lives of the dependent species.

Interestingly, humans threaten the lives of their closest relatives, Neanderthals. Despite sharing in a lot with humans, "the Neanderthals lived in Europe for more than a hundred thousand years, and during that period they had no more impact on their surroundings than any other large vertebrate” (Kolbert 302). If the human beings had not risen to existence within the ecosystem most of the extinct species would still be existing.  

Scientists have joined hands together in the bid to stem out mass extinctions. Other environmentalists have also emerged to save the fading biodiversity. Creating mass awareness is an ideal foundation for the protection of species from extinction. The conservatives have also prompted the authorities to establish the appropriate legislations to fight extinctions of non-human species. Scientists engage in activities such as identifying the endangered species by calculating the migration rates and tracing the decrease of a particular species in a particular location. This aids in identifying means to safeguard the species. These efforts are substantial in saving biodiversity. However, the stubbornness displayed by the human species to work collaboratively renders preservation a contentious matter.

References

Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2014. Print.

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