Our era is now dubbed the Anthropocene: The Age of Man. Our species has become the primary cause of the extinction of other life and of the dramatic changes we see across the planet. In her twenties, Melanie Challenger began a series of journeys to explore the link between her own estrangement from nature and these striking transformations. From an exploration of an abandoned mine in England to an Antarctic sea voyage to South Georgia’s old whaling stations, from a sojourn in South America to a stay among an Inuit community in Canada, she began to uncover the connections between human activity and the living world around us. In time, her travels became a loose meditation on extinction, on how losses affect us and why they matter.
On Extinction is part travelogue, part environmental history. Woven through her journey are the thoughts of the anthropologists, biologists, and philosophers who have come before her. Drawing on their words as well as firsthand witness and ancestral memory, Challenger traces the mindset that led to our destructiveness and proposes a path of redemption rooted in our emotional responses. This sobering yet illuminating book looks beyond natural devastation to examine why and what’s next.