Elizabeth Kolbert was an investigative journalist who traveled around the world to determine if the world was approaching a sixth extinction. It was believed that the earth had been through five extinctions to date.
Kolbert learned about the different between background extinction that was so slow as to be barely perceptible, and mass extinctions where a catastrophe wiped out many species all at once. It appeared that the actions of mankind were leading toward a mass catastrophe.
Because of her research, Kolbert came to the conclusion that man was setting up the human race for a sixth extinction. She decided that although the future was not set, it was extremely likely that the human race would become extinct unless man could use his ingenuity to stop the destruction and extinction of species that was occurring around the world.