Reviews — From the May 2014 issue

Consume, Screw, Kill

The origins of today’s mass extinction

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Discussed in this essay:

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert. Henry Holt. 352 pages. $28.

The extinction symbol is a spare graphic that began to appear on London walls and sidewalks a couple of years ago. It has since become popular enough as an emblem of protest that people display it at environmental rallies. Others tattoo it on their arms. The symbol consists of two triangles inscribed within a circle, like so:

“The triangles represent an hourglass; the circle represents Earth; the symbol as a whole represents, according to a popular Twitter feed devoted to its dissemination (@extinctsymbol, 19.2K followers), “the rapidly accelerating collapse of global biodiversity” — what scientists refer to alternately as the Holocene extinction, the Anthropocene extinction, and (with somewhat more circumspection) the sixth mass extinction.

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is the author of Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety (Simon & Schuster).

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  • UncleStu

    Here are some thoughts I have gathered over the years:

    Heaven and earth and I
    are of one root.
    The ten thousand things and I
    are of one substance.
    Ancient Chinese Philosopher

    “To put it in a nutshell, man is far too successful. Our world cannot support an animal as successful as we are. Still, I’m quite sure we will not succeed in destroying all life on earth. As we are spiraling into dissolution, there will be little voices raised. The worms will cheer.”
    Farley Mowat, Canadian author (Sea of Slaughter, and others)

    There are no jobs on a dead planet.
    There are no economic systems on a dead planet.
    There are no profits on a dead planet.
    There is no wealth on a dead planet.
    There are no perks on a dead planet.
    There is no status on a dead planet.
    There is no beauty on a dead planet.
    UncleStu (this commenter)

    And finally from the incomparable Mark Twain, whose remark I agree with wholeheartedly:
    “If I were in charge there would be another flood, but this time with no ark.”

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