The Sixth Extinction: Turning the Economic Engine of Climate Change & the Consequences of Stalemate U.S. Presidential Actions

How much of this sixth extinction will have to be blamed on the business of America? This is the question Tavis Smiley poses in his soothing drawl at minute 9:18 to author Elizabeth Kolbert during an interview about her book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, earlier this week.

This isn’t a question about obsessive U.S. consumerism. The respected PBS late-night talk show host and award-winning journalist are discussing the political “inconvenience” of converting an entire fossil fuel based economy; the lack of environmental momentum and focus that has persisted into Obama’s second term; and why a lingering climate change “debate” on Capitol Hill is having dire consequences for so many species, including ours.

“You’ve got to really turn this whole economic engine from one that’s based on fossil fuels to one that isn’t, and that’s a massive undertaking, and we need to be starting, you know, not now, but last year basically,” stated Kolbert, a staff writer at The New Yorker and author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change.

In her gentle, matter of fact manner, Kolbert explains the reason why many environmentalist are increasingly upset with Obama’s habit of communicating the need to cut U.S. carbon emissions while simultaneously continuing to support policies that allow oil and gas drilling.

“So Barack Obama to your point, Elizabeth, might be saying more stuff that environmentalists want to hear, as compared to say a guy like George W. Bush. But whether the president is a republican or democrat, I think it was Calvin Coolidge, speaking of presidents, who said ‘The business of America is business’,” noted Smiley during the interview.

“Again, whether the occupant of the oval office is a republican or a democrat, we get this pablum, often times, not a whole lot happens, which leads me to this question, How much of this sixth extinction will have to be blamed on the business of America?

Despite all the science that supports the terrifying fact we’re in the midst of a sixth major (man-made) extinction, the entire interview between these two rational, extremely intelligent and well spoken individuals is strangely calming. Kolbert touches upon the many points she researched for her book, which was released last month, such as how carbon emissions are changing the oceans chemistry; the extinction of tropical frogs; and the lack of political aid to developing countries that are having the least impact on global warming, yet are in the most danger due to the unintended first world impacts of over consumption and a fossil fuel based economy.

“Just fascinating to me, when you think about it, whether we want to hear this or not, that we might end up killing off the rest of the world without a tank, without a drone, but because of the way we maltreat the environment,” said Smiley.

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