Since the first edition of this book was published in 1986, the dusky seaside sparrow, whose plight was chronicled in the chapter "Vanishing Species in our own Backyard," is gone, a victim of politics and neglect. On the other hand, the black-footed ferret of America's Great Plains has recovered from the brink of extinction through captive breeding and is being reintroduced into the wild.
The Last Extinction was one of the first books on biodiversity and species loss, and today there is a new and more widespread awareness of what some consider to be the great tragedy of our time—organisms which took many thousands or even millions of years to evolve are being snuffed out permanently owing to human activity.
Environmentalist Norman Myers has added a new chapter on whales to this edition to address the critical issue of habitat destruction (which for whales involves over 70% of the Earth) from a host of insults. These include oil spills, toxic chemical runoffs that foster oxygen depriving algae bloom, the destruction of plankton by ultraviolet rays, the filling of coastal zones, and boat traffic.
With the exception of David Ehrenfeld's eloquent plea for environmental stewardship, the other essays have been updated to incorporate new information and perspectives. The reading lists, chapter notes, and the list of environmental organizations have also been expanded.
Les Kaufman is Chief Scientist and Head of the Edgerton Research Laboratory at the New England Aquarium, where Kenneth Mallory is Head of Publishing.
Contents: Why the Ark is Sinking, Les Kaufman. Mass Extinctions: New Answers' New Questions, David Jablonski. The Amazon: Paradise Lost? Ghillian T. Prance. Vanishing Species in, Our Own Backyard, James, D. Williams, Ronald M. Nowak. Riders of the Last Ark, Thomas J. Foose. Sharing the Earth with Whales, Norman Myers. Life in the Next Millennium - Who Will be Left in Earth's Community? David Ehrenfeld
"The essays are united by the authors' passionate commitment to preserving the natural diversity, both genetic and esthetic, of the earth's myriad plant and animal species. As this book demonstrates ... when we kill these other species, either directly or by destroying their habitats, we kill a bit of ourselves."
—Dorion Sagan, The New York Times Book Review (review of the first edition)