The Sixth Extinction

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Earth to Edwardsville is a community-wide read, where Edwardsville Public Library will host virtual discussions and presentations of The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert. Funds for this program are provided in part by an Illinois Humanities grant.

Read along with us and join the conversation.

October 5-11: Prologue, Chapters 1 & 2
October 12-18: Chapters 3, 4, & 5
October 19-25: Chapters 6 & 7
October 26-Nov 1: Chapters 8 & 9
November 2-9: Chapters 10 & 11
November 9-13: Chapters 12 & 13

Comment and reply in our discussions on GoodReads.

Follow our Facebook page to watch our live Talking Allowed episodes, happening every Tuesday at 2:00 PM for the next 6 weeks. Chat along with staff members as we discuss documentaries on Kanopy and Hoopla.

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October 5 - October 11: Prologue, Chapter One, Chapter Two

Chapter One

David wake was initially skeptical of the endangerment of frogs in the Sierra Nevada, telling his students that they must be looking in the wrong place. It seems that even experts can remain skeptical until extinctions are well proven. What evidence would convince you to change your behaviors and patterns to benefit a species?

Since the publication of The Sixth Extinction, a Mountain Yellow-legged Frog Working Group has been formed. Looking at their approach to stop the spread of Bd, did you draw any connections to the pandemic that humans have faced this year?

Let us know what you think on GoodReads.

Additional readings/viewings:

Fighting Chytrid: How do biologists fight pandemics in the animal kingdom?
Youtube - Stunning Close-Ups: Meeting These Frogs Before They Go Extinct

Chapter Two

Cuvier made science a form of theater with his public displays of paleontological discovery, changing the public view on sciences and the world. The internet and online videos have made it even easier for us to witness events as they happen in real time. What prompts you to act when you learn about an issue impacting the world online?

What were your overall impressions of Cuvier after reading Chapter Two? Were you familiar with him before this reading?

Join the conversation on GoodReads.

Additional readings/viewings:
Youtube - The Discovery of Extinction

Chapter 3

Darwin proposed the theory of "natural selection" as a slow progression of new species wiping out the old -- evolution & extinction we would not notice -- not by a sudden, catastrophic event. Yet during his own lifetime, Man-made extinctions of animal species happened quickly-- catastrophically. How might we use these facts to sway people who are not convinced of human-influenced extinctions today?

Join the conversation on GoodReads.

Chapter 4

When "Extraterrestrial Cause for the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction" was published, the Alvarezes and their hypothesis were reviled by many. Over the next decade, more evidence supporting their hypothesis came to light, and skeptics in paleontology and other fields gradually changed their minds.

Have you ever wrestled with new information that contradicted a long-standing theory or belief?
Share with us on GoodReads.

Chapter 5

Jan Zalasiewicz is convinced that giant rats will inherit the Earth. While it may sound like science fiction, perhaps this image will be more relatable to the general public than other scientific predictions.

Have you ever imagined the Earth after human extinction? What have you envisioned?
Let us know what you think on GoodReads.

Additional readings/viewings:
Youtube - How Long Will Human Impacts Last?

A World Without Humans Looks a Lot Like a Rat Race

Chapter 6

As we read in this chapter, the rate at which humans pump CO2 creates such hazards for ocean life.

What changes would you like to enact in your personal life this year to help cut your carbon footprint?

Let us know on GoodReads.

Chapter 7

Kolbert lists the threats that reefs are under, and they include:

Ocean Acidification
Overfishing
Agricultural Runoff
Deforestation
Dynamite Fishing
White-band disease
High water temperatures

Seeing such a list can feel overwhelming, but it's interesting to see how scientists are tackling these threats. In this article, we meet coral geneticist Madeleine van Oppen, who is re-engineering corals to be better adapted for warmer sea temperatures.

After reading Chapter 7 and any other additional articles, what is your outlook on the future of coral reefs? Discuss with us on GoodReads.

Chapter 8

On page 150, Kolbert writes "in the popular imagination, global warming is mostly seen as a threat to cold-loving species..."

While polar bears and other arctic species will certainly be affected, the tropics will likely see a greater impact. What are some other misconceptions regarding climate change or global warming do you think exist 'in the popular imagination'? Let us know on GoodReads.

Further viewing: Youtube - Why is biodiversity so important?

Chapter 9

Amazonian species, we are told, are "very specialized," which accounts for their inability to consistently adapt to changes in their environment. What may appear to be a small change to humans (cutting back total acreage in a ecosystem) can really have lasting, monumental consequences including slow extinction. Can we use the current pandemic to give examples of how small changes to our human environment might have a lasting, irreversible impact to us over time? Share your thoughts with us on GoodReads.

Further reading: Every Place Under Threat Your EPL card gets you access to this article on New York Times.

Chapter 10

We see examples of successes and failures of "it takes an invasive species to catch an invasive species" in Chapter X. Various beetles and weevils have helped control the spread of purple loosestrife in North America. Seen as a failure, the wolfsnail has preyed upon colorful native snails of Hawaii rather than hunting the invasive giant African snail. What are your thoughts on this invasive vs. invasive strategy? Let us know on GoodReads.

Further reading/viewing: Youtube - The Threat of Invasive Species

Chapter 11

What should be the function of zoos in regards to the preservation of endangered animals? Discuss with us on GoodReads.