Posted on October 05, 2015, BY Matt Hughes

Photo: Barry Goldstein

Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History and a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, has been named the 12th Janet Weis Fellow in Contemporary Letters at Bucknell University.

In a speech at the Weis Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday, Jan. 26, at 7:30 p.m., Kolbert will address how human activity has contributed to the sixth mass extinction in Earth's history, which she asserts is now ongoing. Her talk, "The Prophet of Love: And Other Tales of Power and Deceit," will be followed by a question-and-answer session and book signing. The event is free and open to the public.

PBS affiliate WVIA will also air a recording of Kolbert's address at the following dates and times:

  • Friday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, Feb. 18, at 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 3, at 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 16, at 12 p.m. 
  • Friday, March 11, at 7 p.m.

Called "one of our very best science writers" by former vice president Al Gore, Kolbert received the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for The Sixth Extinction, which chronicles five previous mass species extinctions and argues that the planet is now in the midst of a sixth.

"She makes an irrefutable case that what we are doing to cause a sixth mass extinction is clearly wrong," Gore wrote in a New York Times review of Kolbert's latest book. "And she makes it clear that doing what is right means accelerating our transition to a more sustainable world."

In addition to winning a Pulitzer, The Sixth Extinction was named a New York Times 2014 Top Ten Best Book of the Year and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle awards for the best books of 2014.

Reviewer Michiko Kakutani, also writing in The New York Times, called Kolbert's work in The Sixth Extinction, "the very model of explanatory journalism, making highly complex theories and hypotheses accessible even to the most science-challenged readers, while providing a wonderfully tactile sense of endangered (or already departed) species and their shrinking habitats."

Kolbert's previous book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, grew from a three-part series in The New Yorker. It unpacks the science of climate change, presents personal stories of those affected most, and asks what, if anything, can be done to save the planet. It was chosen in 2006 as one of 100 Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review.

Kolbert has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1999. Her work for that publication also garnered her the 2005 American Association for the Advancement of Science's magazine award, the 2006 National Academy of Sciences Communication Award in the newspaper/magazine category and a 2010 National Magazine Award in the reviews and criticism category. In 2010, she received the prestigious Heinz Award, which that year recognized Americans addressing global change caused by the impact of human activities and natural processes on the environment.

Kolbert has also covered politics for The New Yorker and written profiles of Hillary Clinton, Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani. Prior to joining The New Yorker she was a political reporter for The New York Times. Her stories have also appeared in The New York Times MagazineVogue 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, also titled The Prophet of Love and Other Tales of Power and Deceit, was published in 2004.

Weis Award
Established in 2002, the Janet Weis Fellow in Contemporary Letters is awarded biennially to honor and recognize individuals who represent the highest level of achievement in the craft of writing within the realms of fiction, non-fiction or biography. Previous recipients have been Robert A. Caro, Edward Albee, John Edgar Wideman, David McCullough, Derek Walcott, Joyce Carol Oates, Tom Wolfe, Salman Rushdie, John Updike, Toni Morrison and Rita Dove.

The Weis Fellowship was established through a grant from the Degenstein Foundation in honor of Janet Weis, an author, civic leader and philanthropist as well as trustee emerita of the University. Her husband, Sigfried Weis, was chair of the Bucknell Board of Trustees from 1982 to 1988.

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