Journalist, author to kick off URI Honors Colloquium

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Historical discussion of global climate change, Sept. 9

KINGSTON, R.I. – September 2, 2008 – Elizabeth Kolbert, staff writer for The New Yorker and author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change, will be the first speaker in the University of Rhode Island’s annual fall Honors Colloquium.

Free and open to the public, the lecture will be held Sept. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Chafee Social Science Center on URI’s Kingston Campus.

The 2008 Honors Colloquium, “People and Planet: Global Environmental Change,” will explore human-caused global change, its consequences and potential responses through a series of lectures, films, exhibits and a cabaret. Weekly events run through Dec. 9.

Kolbert’s lecture on the historical background of global climate change will be an essential primer on the topic. She will explain the science and the studies of climate change, draw parallels to lost ancient civilizations, examine the politics surrounding the issue, and present the personal tales of those who are being affected most — the people who make their homes near the poles and who are watching their worlds disappear.

For her book Field Notes from a Catastrophe, Kolbert traveled from Alaska to Greenland and visited top scientists to get to the heart of the debate over global warming. Growing out of a groundbreaking three-part series in The New Yorker that won the 2005 National Magazine Award, Field Notes from a Catastrophe was chosen as one of the 100 Notable Books of the Year (2006) by The New York Times Book Review.

Kolbert has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1999. Her series on global warming, “The Climate of Man,” won the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s magazine award, as well as the 2006 National Academy of Sciences Communication Award.

Her stories have also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vogue, and Mother Jones, and have been anthologized in “The Best American Science and Nature Writing” and “The Best American Political Writing.” A collection of her work, The Prophet of Love and Other Tales of Power and Deceit, was published in 2004. Prior to joining the staff of The New Yorker, Kolbert was a political reporter for The New York Times.

The next Honors Colloquium event, “The Great Global Warming Hoax?”, will feature URI oceanography professors Rebecca Robinson and John Merrill examining the debate surrounding global warming with the help of documentary film clips. It will take place Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m.

The major sponsors of the 2008 Honors Colloquium are the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation, the URI Office of the President, the URI Honors Program, the Thomas Silvia and Shannon Chandley Honors Colloquium Endowment, the Mark and Donna Ross Honors Colloquium Humanities Endowment, the URI Graduate School of Oceanography and the College of Arts and Sciences. Additional support came from the deans of the remaining URI colleges, the offices of the URI vice presidents, the EPA Atlantic Ecology Division and Rhode Island Sea Grant.

For further details about the colloquium, including an updated schedule and information on parking, go to or contact the URI Honors Center at 401-874-2381 or