Elizabeth Kolbert

New Yorker staff writer and author of "Under a White Sky," "The Sixth Extinction," and "Field Notes from a Catastrophe."

Guest

Elizabeth Kolbert is a staff writer at the New Yorker, covering environmental issues. She is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.

Elizabeth Kolbert on KCRW

Earth is in a man-made massive extinction event, the most devastating since a giant asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs, and that extinction would be humankind’s most lasting legacy.

‘Under a White Sky’: Ideas for fixing a warming planet by geoengineering

Earth is in a man-made massive extinction event, the most devastating since a giant asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs, and that extinction would be humankind’s most lasting legacy.

from Press Play with Madeleine Brand

Australia’s fires have burned more than 14 million acres, an area bigger than New Hampshire and Vermont combined.

Australia fires are part of the ‘sixth extinction’ of plants and animals

Australia’s fires have burned more than 14 million acres, an area bigger than New Hampshire and Vermont combined.

from Press Play with Madeleine Brand

66 million years ago, an asteroid caused Earth’s Fifth Extinction, destroying the dinosaurs and most other life forms. Now Earth is facing another extinction, as fish, plants and animals vanish forever. But this time, it’s not the asteroid, it’s us. 

This week, hundreds of people, both young and old, took to the streets in cities all over the world to begin weeks of protest called the Extinction Rebellion. 

In the natural course of evolution, the decline and disappearance of a life form takes thousands of years. In the course of a human lifetime, not even one species might disappear. But now, some 28,000 species are vanishing all of a sudden.  

Elizabeth Kolbert of the New Yorker magazine has written a book called “The Sixth Extinction.”  She says, “Extinction rates are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times higher than what is known as the background extinction rate that has pertained over most of geological history.” 

In her words, “You should not be able to see all sorts of mammals -- to name just one group -- either going extinct or on the verge of extinction. And that is a tipoff that something very, very unusual, and I would add, very dangerous, is going on.” 

“We’re running geological history backwards. Fossil fuels that were created over the course of hundreds of millions of years buried a lot of carbon underground. We’re now combusting it, putting that carbon back into the atmosphere over a matter of centuries.  So we’re taking a process that hundreds of millions of years to run in one direction and then, in a matter of centuries, running it in another direction.”

We’ll hear what that means now and for the future of life as we know it.

Human activity: as damaging as an asteroid

66 million years ago, an asteroid caused Earth’s Fifth Extinction, destroying the dinosaurs and most other life forms. Now Earth is facing another extinction, as fish, plants and animals vanish forever. But this time, it’s not the asteroid, it’s us. This week, hundreds of people, both young and old, took to the streets in cities all over the world to begin weeks of protest called the Extinction Rebellion. In the natural course of evolution, the decline and disappearance of a life form takes thousands of years. In the course of a human lifetime, not even one species might disappear. But now, some 28,000 species are vanishing all of a sudden. Elizabeth Kolbert of the New Yorker magazine has written a book called “The Sixth Extinction.” She says, “Extinction rates are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times higher than what is known as the background extinction rate that has pertained over most of geological history.” In her words, “You should not be able to see all sorts of mammals -- to name just one group -- either going extinct or on the verge of extinction. And that is a tipoff that something very, very unusual, and I would add, very dangerous, is going on.” “We’re running geological history backwards. Fossil fuels that were created over the course of hundreds of millions of years buried a lot of carbon underground. We’re now combusting it, putting that carbon back into the atmosphere over a matter of centuries. So we’re taking a process that hundreds of millions of years to run in one direction and then, in a matter of centuries, running it in another direction.” We’ll hear what that means now and for the future of life as we know it.

from To the Point

More from KCRW

Joe Mathews says national governments and tech companies are not up to the job of regulating the worldwide web.

from Zócalo's Connecting California

Actor and comedian Eric André on how free jazz inspires his prank comedy.

from The Treatment

The city of LA has locked basketball hoops in Venice Beach, even as more outdoor and indoor activities get the green light to restart.

from Greater LA

Many people in LA and across the nation have long called for significant changes to policing and public safety. But that can mean different things to different people.

from Greater LA

Journalist and anti-war activist David Harris speaks to Robert Scheer about his resistence to America’s genocide in Vietnam and his education in federal prison.

from Scheer Intelligence

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s so-called “justice budget” for the next fiscal year includes nearly $1 billion to fight homelessness.

from Press Play with Madeleine Brand

Kamala Harris has been using her voice as a woman of color and former California attorney general to connect with the Black community after the Derek Chauvin trial, and to speak out…

from Press Play with Madeleine Brand

As the jury was deliberating its verdict in George Floyd’s murder by former police officer Derek Chauvin, BLM co-founder Melina Abdullah spoke with Robert Scheer about the movement’s…

from Scheer Intelligence

In East Hollywood, a parking lot has been turned into LA’s first government-run homeless encampment.

from Greater LA