We are in the midst of an extinction event: the sixth mass extinction on earth and one entirely caused by mankind. All species become extinct sooner or later, but we have accelerated that natural process several hundredfold and now, it is happening right in front of our eyes.
Extinction has a terrifying finality to it. And many species have already been lost to us forever; there is little we can do about that.
What we can do, however, is reflect, remember, and ultimately acknowledge the unvarnished truth. We must see the natural world as it is, and not as we might want it to be. Our trajectory is one that has benefited one species alone – humankind. For all other beings, from mammals to fish, from birds to insects and coral, from plants to lichens and fungi, the future, for better or worse, is in our hands.
Peter Marren is a nature writer and commentator, author of Bugs Britannica, Rainbow Dust, Chasing the Ghost and many other books on British plants, insects, and the countryside. He won the BSBI President's Prize for Britain's Rare Flowers, which was also runner-up for the Natural World Book Prize. He was awarded the Thackray Medal for The New Naturalists by the Society for the History of Natural History. His satirical column in British Wildlife magazine, Twitcher in the Swamp, has a cult following.
He is also a Fellow of the Linnaean Society and has travelled the world in search of wildlife and has co-led wildlife tours all around Europe. He has written papers on endangered species and official reports on local extinctions. He waited until reaching an appropriately mature age before tackling the subject that energises all our efforts to preserve what is left of the world's wildlife and wild places: extinction.
"Wise, challenging and offering some unexpected laughter in the dark, this is a rational and insightful account of the sixth great extinction event that we are all creating. It also contains the best succinct summary of the conservation movement in Britain that I've ever read. Peter Marren is a brilliant writer and a national treasure."
– Patrick Barkham
"After They're Gone tackles one of the huge, uncomfortable but absolutely necessary and unavoidable themes of our times. In his characteristic style Peter Marren has humanised the story of wildlife losses with humour and wit but also with his enormous knowledge and deep love for the living world."
– Mark Cocker, author and naturalist
"Surely one of the best written books about the current extinction crisis in animals, plants and fungi, by one who has spent a lifetime working in the conservation of the organisms he loves. Marren's tour through British wildlife in particular combines common sense and clarity of vision with a poignant sense of loss for the richness of the past."
– Richard Fortey, FRS
"Important and thought-provoking"
– Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP
"Essential reading: Marren makes a page-turner out of Armageddon."
– Simon Barnes
"A characteristically thoughtful, fascinating and very timely book on the process of extinction – and why it matters not just for the future of the natural world, but for us all."
– Stephen Moss, naturalist and author
"From the Xerces blue to the Labrador duck, from the giant earwig to the golden frog, Peter Marren offers us in After They've Gone a litany of wildlife loss across the world as distressing as it is gripping; and his account of the extinction of the baiji, the legendary Chinese river dolphin, will break your heart"
– Michael McCarthy, author of The Moth Snowstorm