Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History Will Be 2014-15 Emily Balch Speaker

Posted June 17th, 2014 at 4:22 pm.

Photo Credit: Barry Goldstein

Photo Credit: Barry Goldstein

Bryn Mawr’s Emily Balch Speaker Series for first-year students is once again bringing a highly celebrated author to campus. The 2014-15 speaker is Elizabeth Kolbert, whose latest book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, blends intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes.  

Kolbert will be visiting campus on November 10, 2014.

Kolbert is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. Her series on global warming, The Climate of Man, from which The Sixth Extinction was adapted, won the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s magazine writing award and a National Academies communications award. She is a two-time National Magazine Award winner. She is also a recipient of a Heinz Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

More about The Sixth Extinction from the publisher:

Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs.

This time around, the cataclysm is us.

In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef.

She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day.

The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind’s most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

The Emily Balch Speaker Series is linked to the Emily Balch Seminars, which are discussion-oriented, reading- and writing-intensive courses for first-year Bryn Mawr students. Taught by scholar/teachers of distinction within their fields and across academic disciplines, Balch Seminars challenge students to think about complex, wide-ranging issues from a variety of perspectives.

Past speakers have included Alison Bechdel, Karen Russell, and Zadie Smith.

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