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The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s P…

The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions

"Given that I am exhausting my friends' generous but reasonable boundaries by talking about the mechanics of mass extinctions, I will instead enlist all of you to read this book so I can freak out about it with you too. Consider the billions of years of history neatly compressed into its pages and into the folds of rock underneath your feet, the feelings of ancient filter feeders crowded out by the invention of plants, the feelings of giant land animals being crowded out by the invention of us, the small geological hiccup within which we live our lives, the web of small coincidences it takes to create a cataclysm, the poetics of using the oily remnants of past disasters to fuel our current disasters. To most effectively appreciate the evanescence of all geographical features in the face of time, the scrappy survivors of brutal extinction events, and my deep anxieties about our own species' struggles in a hotter world, I recommend (from experience) finishing this book at the beach while being aggressively stared down by a seagull."

Lauren A.

See all my recommendations »

Type New
Format Hardcover
ISBN 9780062364807

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.

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