but I have to write it, to get it off my mind. I don't blame people for not wanting to take part in this conversation. But it really demands our attention. This is a hopeful diary because I believe that if we change, we might survive. I highlight three other writers who are also hopeful.
Staff writer for The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert is hopeful if we preserve what's left of our wilderness;
Duke University scientist Stuart Pimm encourages us to work to save the most endangered animals;
British writer George Monbiot in the Guardian wants us to change our economic system.
[A conversation (in the National Geographic) with Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.]
Kolbert, a staff writer for the New Yorker, is also a contributor to National Geographic magazine, and her new book is informed by reporting she did for this magazine on the Anthropocene, or "the Age of Man," ocean acidification, and captive breeding in zoos. She is drawn to gloomy subjects—her previous book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe, was on climate change—but what's exceptional about Kolbert's writing is the combination of scientific rigor and wry humor that keeps you turning the pages.
That story [ the last chapter "The Thing with Feathers,"] seemed to bring together all these qualities of being human that in some sense are really the subject of the book. It's about people's amazing resourcefulness and concern, about people making more and more heroic efforts to try to save pieces of the natural world—and meanwhile it continues to be under greater and greater assault.
Q: Is there any chance that wilderness will be the preservation of the world?
In a period of rapid change, one of the few things we know how to do is to try to leave as many places alone as possible. Big places, so that if things need to move they can, so that evolution can take its course. If these things can adapt, they will—but the point would be to give as many organisms as possible a chance to make it through this moment, by leaving food webs as intact as they still are. Many people said the same thing to me: That's our best shot.
Extinctions now 1,000 times faster than before humans
The study looks at past and present rates of extinction and finds a lower rate in the past than scientists had thought. Species are now disappearing from Earth about 10 times faster than biologists had believed, said the study's lead author, biologist Stuart Pimm of Duke University.
"We are on the verge of the sixth extinction," Pimm said from research at the Dry Tortugas. "Whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions."
It's simple. If we can't change our economic system, our number's upI started this diary last night after reading the Globe & Mail article on the Duke U. study headed by Stuart Pimm. This study The Sixth Extinction strengthens the book of the same title by Elizabeth Kobert which I am reading now. I was heartened to see the well-recommended diary here Is it time we started saying the E word? by Pakalolo.
The inescapable failure of a society built upon growth and its destruction of the Earth's living systems are the overwhelming facts of our existence. As a result, they are mentioned almost nowhere. They are the 21st century's great taboo, the subjects guaranteed to alienate your friends and neighbours. We live as if trapped inside a Sunday supplement: obsessed with fame, fashion and the three dreary staples of middle-class conversation: recipes, renovations and resorts. Anything but the topic that demands our attention.
There's a great interview of Elizabeth Kolbert on Democracy Now by Amy Goodman and Aaron Maté. It is interspersed with the climate change denier Rep. Paul Broun, R. Georgia and there is a compete transcript if you don't believe your ears. But wait, he is chair of oversight and investigations for the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. This shows how far we have to reach to get this conversation going.
There's also an impassioned clip of David Suzuki, Canadian scientist to counter the balderdash of Rep. Paul Broun.