Friday, April 18, 2014

EXCERPTS FROM FROM AN OUTSTANDING BOOK -- THE SIXTH EXTINCTION BY ELIZABETH KOLBERT

While reading this book there were so many important facts that I decided to share them with any of you who could be interested. It's not exactly archaeology, but it pertains to the background that all archaeologists really need to know beginning in the 18th century and going back to the Neanderthals. Also, it comments on the state of the world today.

p.36: Cuvier's discovery of extinction (c. 1785) -- of "a world previous to ours" -- was a sensational event.

p. 37 Cuvier finally gave the mastodonte its name in a paper published in Paris in 1806.

p. 53 Without Lyell (father of geology) there would have been no Darwin. Darwin wrote, "I always feel as if my book came half out of Lyell's brains."

p. 81 Walter Alvarez dubbed the hundred mile crater beneath the Yucatan Peninsula "the Crater Doom" --more widely known named after the nearest town, as the Chicxulub crater.

p. 93 Thomas Kuhn, the 20th century's most influential historian of science. Kuhn's seminal work, the Structure of Scientific Revolution shaped not only individual perceptions but entire fields of inquiry. Kuhn made the term "paradigm shifts" -- the history of the science of extinction can be told as a series of paradigm shifts. This is in the chapter titled "Welcome to the Anthropocene."

p.102 The current theory is that the end-Ordovician extinction was caused by glaciation not by a "death star". This extinction lasted no more than 200,000 years and perhaps less than a 100,000. By the time it was over, something like 90% of all species on earth had been eliminated.

p.108 It seems appropriate to assign the term "Anthropocene" to the present in many ways human-dominated, geological epoch, observed Paul Crutzen, a Dutch chemist who shared a Nobel Prize for discovering effects of ozone-depleting compounds.

p. 113 Since the start of the industrial revolution, humans have burned through enough fossil fuels -- coal, oil,and natural gas -- to add some 365 billion metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere...as a result of all this the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air today -- a little over four hundred parts per mission --is higher than at any other point in the last 800,000 years..

p.120 Ocean acidification is sometime referred to as global warmings "equally evil twin."

p. 132 Ken Caldeira, Stanford professor, published in Nature, "The Coming Centuries May See More Ocean Acidification Than The Past 300 Million years."

P.189 Ecologist Tom Lovejoy: (credited with the term "biological diversity") "in the face of climatic change, even natural climatic change human activity has created an obstacle course for the dispersal of biodiversity. The result which could be 'one of the greatest biotic crisis of all time."

p.239 Svante Paabo (Swedish) sometimes called the "father of paleogenetics." His present project is sequencing the Neanderthal genome. Most people alive today are slightly up to 4% Neanderthal. He "wants to show what changed in fully modern humans, compared with Neanderthals that made a difference."

p.266-67 In the center of the American Museum of Natural History's Hall of Biodiversity (in NYC) there's an exhibit embedded in the floor... arranged around a central plaque that notes there have been five major extinction events since complex animals evolved, over five hundred million years ago. According to the plaque, "Global climate
change and other causes, probably including collisions between earth and extraterrestrial objects," were responsible for these events. And further " Right now we are in the midst of the Sixth Extinction, this time caused solely by humanity's transformation of the ecological landscape."

In an extinction event of our own making, what happens to us" One possibility -- implied by the Hall of Biodiversity -- is that we too will eventually be undone by our "transformation of the ecological landscape." .. by disrupting these systems -- cutting down tropical rainforests, altering the composition of the atmosphere, acidifying the oceans, we're putting our own survival in danger.

A sign in the hall quotes Stanford ecologist Paul Ehrlich: "IN PUSHING OTHER SPECIES TO EXTINCTION, HUMANITY IS BUSY SAWING OFF THE LIMB ON WHICH IT PERCHES."

This is an amazing book, do read the whole thing and recommend it to many people, especially those who aren't sure about climate change.






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