Kolbert, future CES Fellow-in-Residence, speaks on ‘Daily Show’

Elizabeth Kolbert was recently appointed as the Class of 1946 Environmental Fellow-in-Residence. Kolbert will assume her post on July 1, 2015, and will hold the position for three years.

“Our appointment of Elizabeth Kolbert, a writer of international renown, was made possible by support provided by the Class of 1946 Endowment Fund,” Ralph Bradburd, chair of the Center for Environmental Studies (CES), said. “It is yet another example of [the College’s] ability to provide an extraordinary educational experience for our current students made possible by the generosity of students who attended [the College] in the past.”

Kolbert has interacted with the College community before when she led a discussion following a viewing of the movie “A Sea Change: Imagine a World Without Fish.” She has also served as the W. Ford Schumann Visiting Professor in Democratic Studies in the anthropology and sociology department.

On Feb. 11, Kolbert appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to discuss her book The Six Extinction: An Unnatural History, which describes the habits of the Earth’s most invasive species. During the show, Kolbert went into depth about the five major mass extinctions that have occurred in the Earth’s history and the possibility of a current, sixth extinction with anthropogenic, or human, causes. According to Kolbert, the sixth extinction is ongoing and primarily caused by humanity, linking it to climate change in undeniable ways.

“One of the things that I talk about in the book is that we associate climate change as a problem that is going to affect the polar bears. We see pictures of polar bears, and I don’t want to minimize the problems of polar bears, but climate change is really a more massive problem,” Kolbert said.

The remarkable critical acclaim for her writing, as well as her extensive research on climate change, made Kolbert a prime candidate for a fellowship with the CES.

As a future CES fellow, Kolbert will help shape the office’s presence both on campus and in the region. In her first and third years at the College, Kolbert will give a public lecture and teach a course in the environmental humanities; during the second year of her term, she will organize a speaker series featuring topics related to the current and future health of the environment for the environmental studies department.

“It is thrilling to be able to draw upon the talents of one of the world’s most important and incisive writers on topics relating to environmental affairs,” Bradburd said. “[Kolbert] has the rare gift of being able to bring difficult issues to the public attention in a manner that combines elegance and understatement with scrupulous concern for accuracy and dispassionate analysis to produce utterly compelling narratives of our collective assault on the planet.”