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Book review: The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

By Philip Ball  

The Sixth Extinction

by Elizabeth Kolbert (Bloomsbury, £20)

On five occasions in the geological past, most of the species on our planet went abruptly extinct for reasons that are still poorly understood. There are now strong indications of an impending sixth mass extinction, but this time the culprit seems all too clear. Global warming, deforestation, pollution, ocean acidification from rising carbon dioxide levels, and inadvertent long-distance transport of invasive organisms and pathogens—all are primarily or entirely our doing, and all are proving disastrous to life’s diversity.

New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert…

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