One of Vox’s Most Important Books of the Decade
New York Times Editors' Choice 2017
Forbes Top 10 Best Environment, Climate, and Conservation Book of 2017
As new groundbreaking research suggests that climate change played a major role in the most extreme catastrophes in the planet's history, award-winning science journalist Peter Brannen takes us on a wild ride through the planet's five mass extinctions and, in the process, offers us a glimpse of our increasingly dangerous future
Our world has ended five times: it has been broiled, frozen, poison-gassed, smothered, and pelted by asteroids. In The Ends of the World, Peter Brannen dives into deep time, exploring Earth’s past dead ends, and in the process, offers us a glimpse of our possible future.
Many scientists now believe that the climate shifts of the twenty-first century have analogs in these five extinctions. Using the visible clues these devastations have left behind in the fossil record, The Ends of the World takes us inside “scenes of the crime,” from South Africa to the New York Palisades, to tell the story of each extinction. Brannen examines the fossil record—which is rife with creatures like dragonflies the size of sea gulls and guillotine-mouthed fish—and introduces us to the researchers on the front lines who, using the forensic tools of modern science, are piecing together what really happened at the crime scenes of the Earth’s biggest whodunits.
Part road trip, part history, and part cautionary tale, The Ends of the World takes us on a tour of the ways that our planet has clawed itself back from the grave, and casts our future in a completely new light.
Not only does this book show how multiple times life on our EARTH has been nearly whipped out. How life life survived but most species did not. How over time the life forms grew changed and repopulated the Earth only to go through the cycle again. The danger of rising amounts of Carbon DIoxide is largely responsible, the catastrophic destruction of life. Involving volcanic eruptions and green house gases. And now humanities industrial, agricultural practices and waste disposal bring us closer to the next extinction.55
I really enjoyed how Peter Brannen explained the evidence from the geologic studies that underpin our ideas about great mass extinctions in Earth’s history. His attempt to connect today’s challenges of climate change with past events that changed the Earth is thought provoking. The discussion of the asteroid impact and dinosaur extinction and the connection to mass volcanism is believable given the scale of the earthquake waves produced by the asteroid. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in how and why climate can change the earth in dramatic ways.55