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Paper#10 Draft

ally's picture

Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Six Extinction seems to be talking about different extinctions without much relationship. But in my opinion, it has a clear logical relationship beyond the simple extinction stories of different species. The order of the stories unveiled the whole process of how human came up the idea of extinction, how they gradually understood and developed the idea of extinction, how human are destroying the nature and how we’re sensing our damage to the environment. Finally, the author brought up a question at the end of the book: could human avoid extinction or are we doomed to extinct?

Starting with the extinction of the golden frogs in Panama, Kolbert start to write extinction with something rather near to use, no matter time or place. The numbers of different kinds of frogs in Panama have been declining rapidly these years. Many species became extinct even without anyone noticing. Kolbert said the main reason for the extinctions is a kind of fungus from the North America which is bought to Panama because of humans travelling. The first chapter told the readers how extinctions are common in everyday life and mentioned that extinction can be attributed to humans even when the death of the species isn’t directly caused by human.

In the next chapters, Kolbert introduced how human discovered extinction from the mastodon’s molars and how human’s actions accelerated the extinction speed of animals. Chapter 5 turned out to be the turning point, the word “anthropocene” is used to define the age of human, a completely different time because human have had an unprecedented effect on the earth. In the following content, Kolbert mainly discussed how humans’ actions directly affected the environment and led to extinction and being compared to corals, how humans should act to protect the world.

In the end of the book, Kolbert talked about a visit to the Institute for Conservation Research, where all the extinct animals are preserved in tank with liquid nitrogen. Every cell of the animal is carefully preserved for the last chance of resurgence. The fast-developing technology seems to be omnipotent. However, is it what we really want? A used to be colorful world now all locked in the pool of nitrogen. Is technology powerful enough to save the extinct species? At last, Kolbert left the reader with a question. Can human beings escape extinction with their powerful technology that could even control nature? Or it is our fate to extinct eventually?

The whole book focuses on the relationship between human and extinction. Obviously, human is destroying the nature, accelerating extinction. However, the extent to which human is influencing the nature is beyond our imagination. Not only are the release of pollution, overcut of forests leading to damage, but also human’s globalization, a single footprint can be related to extinction of another specimen. As long as human exist, everything we do could cause damage to the environment. Can human truly be included in nature? In Ozeki’s All Over Creation, the book was saying how plants and nature resembles human but in the end it suddenly laid out the idea that human might not be identical to nature because of human’s intelligence and adaptability. Do humans exist equally as the other living beings in nature? Our existence that keeps damaging the nature excludes us from part of nature. Maybe human were evolved to be part of the nature, but human civilization made us different from others. If we are excluded from nature, could human be an exception of nature rules, like evolution and extinction, or is anything different from nature doomed to be wiped out by nature?

Looking at the question of extinction from another viewpoint, definitely, we are trying to avoid extinction by protecting the earth. Could our action of protection be understood as a way to prevent or slow down the process of extinction? Not really, protection can also be viewed as human’s desire to control the environment and protection also involves the use of technology. Could protection be interpreted as another way of human trying to control nature? No matter what we choose, we go back to the same thing and which is also the only thing we could do now, strive to use our superiority as a human – intelligence to save ourselves.