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The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

April 13, 2017 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Elizabeth Kolbert

Special Lecture featuring Elizabeth Kolbert

Elizabeth Kolbert
Elizabeth Kolbert (Photo by Nicholas Whitman)

“Homo sapiens may have enjoyed brilliant success but we have done so at the expense of virtually every other species.” In her fascinating, Pulitzer Prize-winning work The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert draws on extraordinary field work and both intellectual and natural history, revealing just how destructively we humans have affected our planet.

Event Details

WhatThe Sixth Extinction
Who: Elizabeth Kolbert
When: Thursday, April 13, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Carlson Family Stage, Northrop

Book sales and book signing by the author to follow the lecture. 

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About Elizabeth Kolbert

Elizabeth Kolbert has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1999. Her 2015 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, a book about mass extinctions, weaves intellectual and natural history with reporting in the field, and was a New York Times 2014 Top Ten Best Book of the Year and is number one on the Guardian’s list of the 100 Best Nonfiction Books of all time.

As with Field Notes from a Catastrophe, The Sixth Extinction began as an article in The New Yorker. She has written dozens of pieces for the magazine, including profiles of Hillary Clinton, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. She recently won the Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism from the American Geophysical Union. Prior to joining the staff of The New Yorker, Kolbert was a political reporter for The New York Times.

Excerpts from The Sixth Extinction

“A study of more than eight hundred reef-building coral species, published in Science in 2008, found a third of them to be in danger of extinction, largely as a result of rising ocean temperatures. This has made stony corals one of the most endangered groups on the planet: the proportion of coral species ranked as “threatened,” this study noted, exceeds ‘that of most terrestrial animal groups apart from amphibians’.”

—pg 141-142  The Sixth Extinction


“Today, amphibians enjoy the dubious distinction of being the worlds’ most endangered class of animals; it’s been calculated that the group’s extinction rate could be as much a forty-five thousand times higher than the background rate. But extinction rates among many other groups are approach amphibian levels. It is estimated that one-third of all reef-building corals, a third of all fresh-water mollusks, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion.”

—pg. 17 The Sixth Extinction

“Genetic analysis has shown that the Sumatran is the closes living relative of the woolly rhino, which during the last ice age, ranged from Scotland to South Korea…(it) has been described as a ‘living fossil’…Since the mid-nineteen-eighties, the number of Sumatran rhinos in the wild has declined precipitously, to the point that there are now believed to be fewer than a hundred left in the world.”

—pg 218 and 221 The Sixth Extinction

“When a mass extinction occurs, it takes out the weak and also lays low the strong. V-shaped graptolites were everywhere, and then they were nowhere. Ammonites swam around for hundreds of millions of years, and then they were gone.”

—pg 268 The Sixth Extinction

Our University of Minnesota co-sponsors

Thanks to our University of Minnesota co-sponsors for making this event happen: University Honors Program, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Bell Museum and Planetarium, College of Biological Sciences, College of Liberal Arts, College of Science and EngineeringGlobal Programs and Strategy AllianceInstitute on the Environment, and Institute for Advanced Study

Our Media Sponsor

MinnPostLogoThanks to MinnPost, our Media Sponsor for this event. MinnPost is a nonprofit, nonpartisan enterprise whose mission is to provide high-quality journalism for people who care about Minnesota.

Our Community Partners

Thanks to our Community Partners for helping to spread the word about this event: Fresh EnergyFriends of the Mississippi River; Climate Generation: A Will Steger LegacyIzaak Walton League – Minnesota Division; Minnesota Environmental FundMinnesota Interfaith Power and Light, Minnesota Renewable Energy SocietyMPIRGTake Action MN, The Loft Literary Center; The Nature Conservancy; and the University of Minnesota Bookstore


April 13, 2017
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Event Categories:


Friends of the University of Minnesota Libraries


84 Church St. S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55455 United States
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