A reading club with a view to the future

461 Peter Brannen: The Ends of the World

“The Ends of the World” explores past mass extinctions and the lessons they hold for understanding Earth’s future in a changing climate.



In "The Ends of the World," Peter Brannen takes readers on a captivating journey through Earth's history, examining the five major mass extinctions that have shaped life on our planet. With meticulous research and engaging storytelling, Brannen reveals the cataclysmic events and environmental shifts that caused these extinctions, from volcanic eruptions to asteroid impacts. By studying the past, he draws important parallels to the present, exploring the potential consequences of climate change and human activity on Earth's ecosystems. Through a mix of scientific analysis and captivating narratives, "The Ends of the World" offers valuable insights into the past and future of life on our planet.


  1. Title: The Ends of the World 
  2. Author: Peter Brannen 
  3. Publishing Year: 2017 
  4. Publisher: Ecco 
  5. Length: 9 hours and 57 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. Ancient Catastrophes: Brannen explores the specific events and natural disasters that caused past mass extinctions, such as volcanic eruptions, asteroid impacts, and climate disruptions.
  2. The Great Dying: The book delves into the Permian-Triassic extinction, also known as the Great Dying, which wiped out the majority of life on Earth and provides valuable lessons about the consequences of climate change.
  3. The Dinosaurs' Demise: Brannen examines the impact of the Chicxulub asteroid impact on the dinosaurs and the subsequent ecological changes that shaped the evolution of life on Earth.
  4. Lessons from the Past: By studying the past mass extinctions, the book highlights the importance of understanding Earth's history in predicting and mitigating future ecological crises.
  5. Climate Change Today: Brannen connects the lessons from the past to the current challenges posed by human-induced climate change and the potential for future mass extinctions if urgent action is not taken.

5 funny quotes

  1. "A mammal named Thomas, the first of our lineage, may have found it useful to learn how to walk. Instead, it taught itself to fly."
  2. "The lovely red squirrels we know today should technically be called Wretched Proto-Squirrels of the Past."
  3. "These were not, to put it mildly, the charismatic tropical reefs of today. In this world, there were no scuba divers, because snorkels hadn't been invented."
  4. "In this strange world, large birds have to compete with giant ants for carrion."
  5. "If there were some prehistoric Sarah Palin, she would have coined the term 'refudiating global warming.'"

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "The Earth has tried to kill us nearly two dozen times in the past several million years. We have the power to save ourselves."
  2. "We are living in the middle of the most destructive chapter in Earth's history since the end-Cretaceous mass extinction."
  3. "Climate, we have learned, is the most lethal and patient of all weapons of mass destruction."
  4. "The past shows us that ecosystems are delicate constructs that can be swept away by changes far less severe than those we are now inflicting."
  5. "We are the first species to understand our own extinction."

5 dilemmas

  1. The dilemma of balancing the urgency to mitigate climate change with the complex economic and political challenges that hinder decisive action.
  2. The ethical dilemma of determining the responsibility and accountability for the current ecological crisis and the potential for future mass extinctions.
  3. The dilemma of prioritizing conservation efforts and resource allocation to protect biodiversity in the face of limited resources and competing societal needs.
  4. The dilemma of balancing short-term human interests and long-term sustainability in the face of climate change and the potential for future mass extinctions.
  5. The dilemma of communicating the urgency of climate change and the potential for future extinctions to the broader public, overcoming skepticism, and fostering collective action.

5 examples

  1. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) - Brannen discusses the role of NASA in studying past mass extinctions and understanding Earth's history.
  2. The Geological Society of America - A prominent scientific organization that has contributed to the understanding of Earth's history and the impact of past extinctions.
  3. The American Museum of Natural History - Brannen refers to the museum's research and exhibits that showcase the fossils and evidence of past extinctions.
  4. University of California, Berkeley - The university's research and scientists are mentioned in the book in relation to the study of mass extinctions.
  5. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - Brannen references the IPCC's reports and findings on climate change and its potential impacts on ecosystems and species.

Referenced books

  1. "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History" by Elizabeth Kolbert
  2. "The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl" by Timothy Egan
  3. "The Day the Mesozoic Died" by Walter Alvarez
  4. "The World Without Us" by Alan Weisman
  5. "The Great Dying: The New World and the End of the Empire" by John Duffy

Share a quote

"If there were some prehistoric Sarah Palin, she would have coined the term 'refudiating global warming.'"

Become a NextBook Insider

Join our community to access exclusive content, comment on stories, participate in giveaways, and more.