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Dodging Extinction

Dodging Extinction: Power, Food, Money, and the Future of Life on Earth

Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Dodging Extinction
    Book Description:

    Paleobiologist Anthony D. Barnosky weaves together evidence from the deep past and the present to alert us to the looming Sixth Mass Extinction and to offer a practical, hopeful plan for avoiding it. Writing from the front lines of extinction research, Barnosky tells the overarching story of geologic and evolutionary history and how it informs the way humans inhabit, exploit, and impact Earth today. He presents compelling evidence that unless we rethink how we generate the power we use to run our global ecosystem, where we get our food, and how we make our money, we will trigger what would be the sixth great extinction on Earth, with dire consequences.Optimistic that we can change this ominous forecast if we act now, Barnosky provides clear-cut strategies to guide the planet away from global catastrophe. In many instances the necessary technology and know-how already exist and are being applied to crucial issues around human-caused climate change, feeding the world's growing population, and exploiting natural resources. Deeply informed yet accessibly written,Dodging Extinctionis nothing short of a guidebook for saving the planet.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95909-5
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiii)
  4. CHAPTER ONE The Last Ones Standing
    (pp. 1-16)

    Lonesome George. The name says it all. He was the last of his kind, found wandering all alone on the Galápagos island of Pinta in 1971, lumbering about in his methodical giant-tortoise way. Before then, scientists thought that his subspecies,Chelonoidis nigra abingdonii, was totally extinct. Giant tortoises like Lonesome George were once abundant on Pinta Island, as were other subspecies on other Galápagos islands. So abundant, in fact, that the very name Galápagos—a Spanish word describing the saddle shape of their shells—refers to them.

    It was bad luck for the tortoises that first the Spaniards and pirates,...

  5. CHAPTER TWO It’s Not Too Late (Yet)
    (pp. 17-33)

    On July 19, 1978, our four-wheel-drive, three-quarter-ton pickup truck rolled into Edgemont, South Dakota, just about sundown. It fit right in. With less than 1,000 people, Edgemont is not unlike many small rural communities in that part of the northern Great Plains, a cluster of simple frame houses and a quiet Main Street that grew up next to the railroad yards, waxing and waning through the years as wool mills, munitions factories, and uranium mines came and went. It is, however, absolutely remarkable in one respect: the number of mosasaurs per square mile in the surrounding ranchlands is probably greater...

  6. CHAPTER THREE A Perfect Storm
    (pp. 34-49)

    This was no disaster movie. It was the real thing. In New York City, waterfalls rushed down the stairs into the subway stations, flooding the tracks for days afterward. The storm surge ripped up large sections of the Atlantic City boardwalk. Beachfront houses and shops, buffeted by the ocean waves and high winds, were turned into rubble in a matter of hours. A power station exploded, a flash of bright orange in the rain-soaked night sky, leaving millions of people without electricity for days, in some places weeks. In all, the damage in the United States spread through twenty-four states,...

    (pp. 50-78)

    “Main thing to remember is you gotta keep your head down,” Danny instructed. “If you don’t, it’s gonna get knocked off by the low rocks.”

    “Got it,” I coolly said as I wedged my hard hat down a little tighter, made sure my miner’s light was on, and shoved aside a few errant lumps of coal so I could scootch down a little lower. I was hoping my nonchalant response masked what I was really thinking, which was something along the lines of, “Great, I’m on the death train to the Cretaceous.”

    At the time I was working as a...

    (pp. 79-105)

    Some of the best fishing I’ve ever had was on a moonless night, pitch-black except for a few billion stars pinpricking the sky. I couldn’t see a thing as I waded into the river, but I had fished that stretch often enough to know exactly where to put my feet as the current pushed against my knees, then my thighs, while I slowly worked my way upstream.

    A few hours earlier, I had been hiking into the canyon with my two brothers, as had become our weekend routine that summer. We’d dropped our packs off at the usual camping spot,...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Money
    (pp. 106-131)

    I count myself extremely lucky never to have been shot at by an AK-47. So I can only imagine the scenes that took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2012 and that these days are taking place all too often across Africa.¹ I envision the park rangers with their heads down, bellies pressed hard into the tall grass, a little panicked as bullets whizzed through the air, a helicopter off in the distance reverberating behind the staccato gunfire. Hard to say what they were thinking, but my guess is it was something along the lines of “Shit!...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Resuscitation
    (pp. 132-151)

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that all of the solutions suggested in the previous few chapters have been implemented, and we stop there. Extinction rates would slow, but we still wouldn’t be out of the woods. That’s because the extinction train has already gained tremendous momentum over the past couple of centuries. Many species are already handicapped by vastly reduced numbers, substantial loss of genetic variation, and loss of most of their natural habitats. And as much as we might like to, we can’t forget about the components of that “perfect storm” of extinction that we’ve already put...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Back from the Brink
    (pp. 152-176)

    Here’s the catch: what’s bad for other species is also bad for us. Just as they cause problems for other species, our current methods of pursuing power, food, and money no longer work very well for sustaining the human race. Increasing numbers of studies, including one signed by thousands of scientists from all over the world, come to conclusions like “Based on the best scientific information available, human quality of life will suffer substantial degradation by the year 2050 if we continue on our current path.”¹ The drivers of demise that are invariably cited are, you guessed it, the once...

  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 177-178)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 179-224)
  14. Index
    (pp. 225-240)