Oswego Reading Initiative ponders environmental 'Catastrophe'

book coverSUNY Oswego students, faculty and staff are perusing and pondering Elizabeth Kolbert’s “Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature and Climate Change,” this year’s Oswego Reading Initiative selection.

The annual ORI selection ties in with campus-wide discussions and related programming, this year addressing one of the most pressing issues of the day.

“The level of interest among faculty in applicability to their courses was one of the parameters that made it a better choice,” SUNY Oswego Associate Provost Rameen Mohammadi said. “A second reason is that we have a sustainability initiative on our campus.”

SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in spring 2007, committing the college to a leadership role in addressing the challenge of climate change.

The book’s readability and engaging nature helped its early standing as one of the dozens of suggested books vetted by members of the ORI committee, Mohammadi explained. “There is
very good scientific information, and she does a good job of keeping it plain so someone who is 18 or 19 can easily read it,” he said. “It’s at the right level for incoming students to read it and digest it.”

The book includes areas other than science and ecology, such as economics and political reasons climate agreements fail. “This multidisciplinary perspective it just naturally offers is another big plus,” Mohammadi said.

The book also brings many critical raves. “On the burgeoning shelf of cautionary but occasionally alarmist books warning about the consequences of dramatic climate change, Kolbert’s calmly persuasive reporting stands out for its sobering clarity,” Publishers Weekly noted. “Expanding on a three-part series for the New Yorker, Kolbert lets facts rather than polemics tell the story.”

Scientific American compared Kolbert’s book to Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” which galvanized the American public to ban the pesticide DDT in the 1960s. “The enduring impression is of deep, sober, rooted authority—the same impression ‘Silent Spring’ conveys,” the journal noted. “Kolbert is not a scientist, but she reports regularly on science, and she may well have talked to every researcher on the planet studying global warming.”

Kolbert will visit campus March 17 to speak to classes and give an evening talk as part of a program series related to the book.

Environmental lifestyle entrepreneur Danny Seo will speak Monday, Aug. 25, in the Campus Center as part of opening activities. Seo is the official Green Living Partner for JCPenney and the author of a monthly column in Better Homes & Gardens, a nationally syndicated newspaper column “Do Just One Thing” and a “Simply Green” series of books.

An exhibition titled “Eco-Tankers” by Oregon artist and environmentalist Bruce Conkle will appear in Tyler Art Gallery from Sept. 5 to Oct. 12. A film series will include such fare as “An Inconvenient Truth,” “The Day After Tomorrow” and “The End of Suburbia.” Other arts programming is in the works as well.

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(Posted: Jun 25, 2008)