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Book Discussion: Silent Spring & The Sixth Extinction

January 29, 2017 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Silent SpringThe Sixth ExtinctionThe Rhode Island Wild Plant Society is once again hosting a winter book discussion for members, focusing on ecological concerns relevant to our mission. The classic, Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson, and a contemporary synthesis, The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert both deal with the ways that human society has led to loss of biodiversity and species extinctions. Discussion participants are welcome to read either book, or both.

In the Afterword to the 40th Anniversary Edition of Silent Spring, biologist Edward O. Wilson writes that the adverse effects of pesticides and other toxic pollutants on the environment and public health were well documented but scattered throughout the technical literature prior to Carson’s work. He notes that “It was Rachel Carson’s achievement to synthesize this knowledge into a single image that everyone, scientists and the general public alike, could easily understand.”

Also at that time, scientific culture was focused on molecular processes – “ecology was near the bottom of the scientific disciplines in prestige and support; few Americans even knew what the word meant.” Wilson credits Silent Spring with being influential in the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, and the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973. He notes, however, that the battle is still uphill in our effort to confront the effects of natural resource consumption, global warming, fisheries collapse, loss of tropical forests, and extinction of species.

In The Sixth Extinction, journalist Elizabeth Kolbert examines the ways in which human use of the planet threatens to bring about mass extinctions of species, through the combined effects of population growth, energy consumption, chemical changes in the atmosphere and oceans, and climate change. She examines these changes through thirteen chapters on iconic species, some already extinct and others threatened. She concludes, “Right now, in the amazing moment that to us counts as the present, we are deciding, without quite meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will forever be closed.”

Bring your best insights! Come and share your reflections on this classic and/or current book. Our hosts will provide a welcoming winter setting and a table set with warm beverages and sweet treats.

Discussion Leader:  Elaine Trench
Minimum participants 7, Maximum 12
Fee $5:00
Please note: Should we need to cancel due to weather on January 29, the program will be moved to Sunday, February 12.

Numerous copies of both books are available through the Ocean State Libraries system as well as being widely available online for purchase.

Preregistration is required. An event reminder, which will include directions, will be sent out to participants a few days prior to the discussion.


January 29, 2017
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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