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Can a Story Save the Planet?

October 20 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

Three photographic portraits in black and white side by side. A man on the left with a beard and glasses, a woman in the middle with long brown hair, and a man on the right with a white beard and glasses.

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Celebrated writers Scott Z. BurnsAmitav Ghosh, and Elizabeth Kolbert discuss how the art of storytelling has failed to take on the climate crisis and its attendant catastrophes—and how that might change. Burns is the screenwriter of the 2011 film Contagion, a prescient depiction of a pandemic that highlighted many of the institutional failures seen during the current coronavirus outbreak, and produced the climate-focused documentaries An Inconvenient Truth and its sequel. The recipient of literary awards internationally, Ghosh focused his most recent fiction and non-fiction books, Gun Island and The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, on climate change and its devastating effects. A staff writer for The New Yorker, Kolbert’s most recent book, The Sixth Extinction, details the current extinction crisis and received the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 2015.

 

ABOUT THE SPEAKERS

Scott Z. Burns is the screenwriter of the 2011 film Contagion, an eerily prescient depiction of a pandemic that highlighted many of the same institutional failures seen during the current coronavirus outbreak. He also wrote The Report, about the CIA’s coverup of the use of torture after 9/11, and The Laundromat, which focuses on the story behind the Panama Papers. He also produced the climate-focused documentaries An Inconvenient Truth and An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.

Amitav Ghosh’s most recent book of fiction Gun Island drew on climate change and the resulting stories of human migration. Prior to that, his non-fiction book The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable focused on modern literature’s failure to address climate change, also the subject of many of the author’s newspaper and magazine opinion pieces. Ghosh has won awards internationally for both fiction and non-fiction, including the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Jnanpith award, making him the first Indian writer in English to receive the prestigious Indian literary award.

Elizabeth Kolbert is a staff writer for The New Yorker. Her most recent book The Sixth Extinction received the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 2015. She is a two-time National Magazine Award winner, and has received a Heinz Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a National Academies communications award. Kolbert is a visiting fellow at the Center for Environmental Studies at Williams College.