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Author and journalist Elizabeth Kolbert speaks to an audience of mostly students in the University of La Verne's Ann & Steve Morgan Auditorium.

Author and journalist Elizabeth Kolbert speaks to an audience of mostly students in the University of La Verne's Ann & Steve Morgan Auditorium.

Industrial Revelation

Author and journalist Elizabeth Kolbert poses some sobering questions to La Verne students about the survival of the planet they are about to inherit.

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  • September 30, 2013

“How are you changing the world?” It is a thought-provoking question that generally inspires a virtuous response.

But when Elizabeth Kolbert, journalist and author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change, posed that question to a packed Morgan auditorium filled with freshmen, she was looking for a different kind of response.

On September 25, Kolbert presented a lecture about the state of the planet and the effect mankind is having on it in the age of global warming. Her book is this year’s selection for the One Book, One University program series at the University of La Verne.

As part of the Freshman La Verne Experience, the One Book, One University program promotes reading and the discussion of diverse perspectives as a common intellectual experience for students.

Kolbert pointed out that humans have been contributing to the ‘change’ in earth’s atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution through the burning of natural gas and fossil fuels. She said that the release of carbon dioxide into earth’s atmosphere is contributing to rising temperatures on earth.

“America in the 21st Century is a product of choice,” Kolbert said.

Getting to the heart of the debate over global warming, Kolbert’s lecture to the Class of 2017 inspired critical thought about how each individual is responsible for the changes that occur on the planet — both the good and the bad.

“If we learn how the world is put together, you realize you don’t have to accept it as it is,” Kolbert said. “You can change it.”

From describing how perennial ice could vanish from the Arctic by 2080 to explaining the effects of ocean acidification, Kolbert made her point clear: Climate change is occurring and mankind is responsible.

“As a journalist, I feel that I have an obligation to tell you the truth, which is that we have come up short in finding solutions to these problems,” Kolbert said.  “But it doesn’t mean that we all don’t have an obligation to try.”

Kolbert, who is the mother of a sophomore undergraduate student, acknowledged that the issue at hand might seem burdensome to young people who are inheriting this world and are deciding who they want to become.

During her lecture she gave students a chance to engage in the conversation and ask questions about her research. Before she concluded, Kolbert left students with a few words of optimism.

“If these challenges are going to be with us throughout a lifetime, I hope some of you will choose careers that will help us solve some of these problems,” Kolbert said. “Even if the challenges seem formidable, I know that smart and creative students like you are going to help solve these problems in the future.”

To learn more about Elizabeth Kolbert and the One Book One University program, click here.



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