With the issue of global warming becoming much more prominent in today’s society, it’s understandable that many written work with this topic as well as other environmental issue are becoming more commonplace. Being an Ecology and Evolutions major, this blogger has read her fair share of such works and still has many more to read as more facts and research surface. However, no other environmentally-inspired written work has had such an immediate connection between the reader and its content as Elizabeth Kolbert’s book, “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History“.
In this book, Kolbert recounts several tales of her travels around the globe, speaking to many different scientists and researchers about their years of study and experience. Not only about global warming, but other threats that have a high likelihood of human activity being to blame. Things like fungal infections decimating amphibian populations around the world most likely caused by animal trafficking and trade, megafauna extinctions due to both current and primitive human settling and hunting, and more obvious ones like the fragmentation effects from people cutting down portions of forests around the world, especially for rainforests.
However, it’s not just the content of this piece of literature that has readers so enamored, Kolbert herself is a big reason as to why this book is so wonderful. She truly is a remarkable journalist. Her style of writing just begs for the reader’s full attention. This book isn’t just trying to present information towards the reader, it’s trying to have a conversation. One thing readers may notice when reading her first chapter is her constant use of exclamation points. However, this isn’t a bad thing. The way she uses them shows just how enthralled she was while writing and experiencing what she was doing. Even people with little interest in the fate of the environment can’t deny that her writing style has a magnificent charm to it.
Global warming is a pretty big issue. People know of it, but less people know exactly what is the main issue behind global warming: carbon dioxide. There are other big gases like methane, but carbon dioxide has some other nasty side effects.
There are still some people who, regrettably, don’t believe in the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Luckily some evidence exists to prove otherwise. The chart above is a very famous chart known as The Keeling Curve. He started his experiment way back in 1956 to measure the concentration of carbon dioxide in parts per million at a certain points (namely the Mauna Loa Observation in Hawaii, but various other places are included as well) in the world over the next few years to see the effects that time and place had on carbon dioxide concentration. The “next few years” plan changed when the shocking results were revealed, and it has been recording ever since. With increased carbon dioxide comes increased temperatures. This curve has been used as evidence that global warming is not just a future problem, but a current problem.
The temperature increase caused by carbon dioxide affects not only humans, but other creatures as well. Considering the fact that a polar bear hanging on to a small patch of ice is one of the first things people think about when they think of the effect global warming, and therefore the increasing carbon dioxide concentration, has on animals, this is by no means a groundbreaking fact. People are well aware of the fact that many animals are much worse for wear thanks to rising temperatures. Whether it be for actual living conditions, such as the polar bear, or whether it affects the behavioral patterns, such as the case of certain migratory birds, or even the effects of plant boundaries, the effects of these raised temperatures have certainly left their mark.
Temperature increasing isn’t the only threat increased carbon dioxide poses. When carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, it turns into an acid. So, because of how much extra carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere, the ocean is slowly becoming more acidic. Even a small difference in acidity can have a big impact on animals. To give an example on what effect acidification has on marine environments, volcanic vents near Ischia, Italy spew out only carbon dioxide. and it has a devastating affect on wildlife. Very few animals can live in the acidic waters close to the vents, and the few that do brave these acidic waters tend to have holes in their shells from the acid constantly gnawing at them. Imagine this happening to the world’s oceans. Oh, what a world.