I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
In many ways, this book is preaching to the choir. Those of us who would pick it up to read already know a fair bit about the subject of extinction. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of dinosaurs (my father claimed that I knew all their names by the time I was two). They are usually how we become acquainted with the whole concept of extinction.
Unlike all the previous extinction events, which had nothing to do with people (because there were no people when they happened), the current rash of extinctions has everything to do with us. Wherever people go, extinctions follow. The ongoing decimation of amphibians? Caused by fungus spread by humans. Whitenose syndrome killing bats? Ditto. Large mammals in North America? Climate change exacerbated by human hunting of animals with a slow reproductive cycle. Rhinos and elephants? Killed for human whims. The Great Auk? Last few individuals wiped out by collectors.
I appreciated the author’s personal experiences (visiting a museum with Great Auk remains, spelunking in bat caves, etc.) in the telling of this tale. It made the problem much more personal.
The section where I learned the most? Ocean acidification. All that CO₂ dissolving in the oceans, changing things where we can’t see them easily, fooling us into thinking that we are getting away with business as usual.