In its 4.54-billion-year history, Earth has experienced five mass extinctions -- and humans seem likely to cause a sixth, according to New Yorker
staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe
. Traveling the world to talk to scientists, Kolbert describes the extinction events that ended previous geological epochs, all caused by natural phenomena ranging from impact events to glaciation. Her conclusion? Our species will destroy itself and everything else, thanks to a convergence of anthropogenic causes: global climate change (resulting from high concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere), ocean acidification, and a loss of biodiversity in direct proportion to an exponential increase in the human population. Enjoy?