#NFBookClub The Sixth Exctinction Discussion – Part 2

September 24, 2015 Uncategorized 11


Hello, my nonfiction-reading friends! Although the organization in the second half still drove me a little crazy, I found myself enjoying the book more. I’ve also really enjoyed the great conversation in the google doc. Chatting with everyone about this read has really made me think! Here are the questions I thought it would be fun to discuss while reading the second half. The link-up for discussion will be open through the end of the month. And don’t forget to stop by tomorrow to find out what book we’ll be reading in October!

  1. Did you learn anything from this book that surprised you?
  2. Have you ever participated in any citizen-science projects, such as bird counts?
  3. Are human-driven extinctions inherently bad or unnatural? As Kelly asked in our discussion, should this be considered natural selection?
  4. Do you think that programs attempting to keep otherwise extinct or nearly extinct animals alive in zoos are worthwhile?
  5. Were you surprised the author’s conclusion was so bleak?
  6. What did you think of the book overall?

I’ve decided to start sharing my answers with the questions but I’ll put them below, after the link-up, so that you can answer before reading my answers if you want.

[inlinkz_linkup id=566598]

  1. I already knew most of the big picture stories the author shared, but I was a bit shocked by how bad some things were. What actually surprised me the most though were some of the large scientific studies being performed. The one where every tree over acres of land had been catalogued – crazy!
  2. I’ve done a tiny bit of citizen science, including The Great Backyard Bird Count once and some allowing my computer to be used for protein folding through Folding@Home.
  3. I have a very visceral emotional response to people wiping out animals, whether they’re adorable large animals or tiny animals we haven’t even identified yet. At the same time, I’m not sure that people should be considered any different than any other force in the world. I also think some of our attempts to restore animals could be just as meddlesome as our actions that cause extinctions. For instance, do we ever want to release animals that are in zoos but extinct in the wild? At that point, are they invasives? I guess the bottom line is that I think human-driven change is inevitable, but I still can’t quite reconcile myself with human-driven extinctions.
  4. I’m not sure about this one either. I love the idea of people decades from now still being able to interact with any animals we do drive extinct. However, the cost of some of ways we try to keep species from going extinct seem insane given the number of people in need around the world. And as I said in the last question, what happens with these animals later? If we can’t re-release them, why are we keeping them around? And can we justify re-releasing them at the expense of other animals?
  5. I was kind of surprised that the author jumped right to saying individuals can’t do anything about the trajectory we’re on.  I think talking about political activism would have been worthwhile and would have made the book less of a downer!
  6. Haha, I hate to end on a downer myself, but for all that I liked this book, it just didn’t live up to the quality of other Pulitzer Prize winning books I’ve read (The Emperor of All MaladiesToms River). The chapters each told a fascinating story, but they were completely disjointed; the writing was nothing to write home about; and the information was mostly not new to me. However, that only sounds so negative because I was holding this book to a very high standard. I did end up enjoying it and the fun facts about many different animals made for great reading.

11 Responses to “#NFBookClub The Sixth Exctinction Discussion – Part 2”

  1. TJ @MyBookStrings

    Sorry I missed the Google doc chat; I forgot about that part.
    1. and 6. I enjoyed reading the book overall, for all that the subject matter was so depressing. Some of the information was not new to me (like the info about invasive species), but I was not aware of most of the research projects mentioned in the book. As someone with a rather unscientific mind, I thought it was well explained, understandable, and interesting. So my overall opinion of the books is much more positive than yours, Katie.
    2. I have never participated in a citizen-science project; I might look into it now though.
    3. I don’t think all human-driven extinctions are necessarily bad. However, human beings are the only species that kills for enjoyment, so when we cause the extinction of another species simply because we can, not because we have to to ensure our own survival, then I don’t consider that natural anymore.
    4. I feel conflicted about zoos in general, because animals can so rarely be kept in conditions that are natural to them. But I think rare animals in zoos can serve as a learning experience and a reminder of what is or was part of nature, so I don’t object to their keeping overall.
    5. I was not surprised by the bleak ending. I found it fitting, and I think a more upbeat ending would have felt insincere to me at that point. I agree with her that since we are the first species to destroy our own habitat, we don’t necessarily deserve to survive.

    • Naomi

      I like your point that humans kill for fun (and also money!). And, that rare animals in zoos can serve as a learning experience and reminder.
      I also thought that the ending was fitting. Including ways in which things can be improved was not really the point of the book. I also didn’t find it as depressing as I maybe should have. I guess because the overall message of the destruction of the planet is not really news to most of us.
      I also really enjoyed the book. It helped remind me of my interest in science. I especially loved the history and evolutionary aspect of it. I want to know more now!

    • DoingDewey

      No problem! I forgot to re-link the google doc in the first set of discussion questions, so I knew it might get missed this time. I did enjoy reading the book, but it wasn’t my favorite. I’m glad you enjoyed it more 🙂 I wasn’t aware of many of the large scale projects especially and I thought they were really cool!

      I agree with you about people killing animals for sport definitely being a different situation! I don’t think doing that to the extent that some animals are driven to extinction is ever OK.

      I’m not sure about zoos either. Some of them are truly depressing because of the conditions in which they keep animals. I’m also not sure what they end goal is in cases where it’s unlikely animals will ever be returned to the wild, although I agree with you that they can make for a valuable learning experience anyway.

  2. Naomi

    1. I surprised by the the extensive work that is going into studying very specific things. I guess I vaguely know it’s going on, but to hear about the dedication some people are putting into it is kind of amazing.
    2. A the park where we camp every summer, we once participated in the monarch butterfly project. The kids helped plant the butterfly garden, and then we all took home milkweed to plant in our own gardens at home.
    3. My first reaction is to say that the ways in which we are harming the earth (and thereby plants and animals) is not natural. We create big, crazy, harmful stuff that wouldn’t have occurred in nature. But, that’s a good question!
    4. I used to think so, but the more I read about it, the more I feel like it’s just putting off the inevitable a little bit longer. I also wonder about the quality of life for the animals in captivity. We don’t want to be saving animals just to make ourselves feel less guilty for killing them off in the first place – we want to be actually helping the animals themselves.
    5. I don’t find it surprising that the author’s conclusion is so bleak. She saw and learned about a lot of depressing stuff to write this book. I’m surprised she was able to present it all with as little of her own opinions and emotions as she did.
    I do agree that talking more about what can be done might have left us with more hope, but I don’t think that was the point of the book. Maybe she’s hoping someone else will write about that.
    6. I loved this book. Almost everything in it fascinated me. And, despite it’s conclusion, it didn’t even depress me much (I guess I already felt that way about the state of things anyway). Instead, it left me with a bigger picture, and that we are just blips in the history of the earth. Maybe that thought is also depressing, but, for me, it gives me hope that some of the other creatures will likely carry on with or without us.
    Your answer to this question makes me want to read The Emperor of All Maladies and Toms River!

    • Jancee @ Jancee's Reading Journal

      The Monarch Butterfly project sounds fascinating. I wish we had had more of these citizen projects. Seems like a great way to teach kids and let them get hands-on, while also informing and educating adults. If people get involved, they tend to care more because they are invested.

    • DoingDewey

      It really is amazing how specific research gets! Personally, I study one specific type of protein and its role in one specific plant disease. It’s hard to even explain to people because it’s so specific!

      Your butterfly garden project sounds like a lot of fun! And I think you make a good point about zoos. I suspect part of why we try so hard to rescue at least a few of every species is because of guilt, not logical reasoning about what will help improve the planet.

      I also think your point about the book putting everything in perspective is a good one. It made me think about how much effort I care to put into changing things that won’t be a problem until after I’m dead.

      I’d highly recommend both of those books! They were awesome.

  3. Rachel

    I forgot about the Googledoc discussion too. For some reason I thought it was a Twitter conversation.

    Unfortunately I won’t be able to join October’s read. But hopefully I’ll be back in November and remember the Googledoc talk.

    I’ll be back later to answer these questions! 🙂

    • DoingDewey

      I forgot to post the google doc with the last discussion question, so I knew it might get forgotten this time!

      I’m sorry you won’t be able to join in next month, but hopefully you’ll be able to hop in for the fun during Nonfiction November. Thanks for joining in this month! I can’t wait to hear what you think of this one 🙂

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