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Author Archive: "Elizabeth Kolbert"

Freezing in New York

One of the cool things about blogging (or guest blogging, as the case may be) is that life's myriad annoyances are suddenly transformed into narrative material. (Day 5 and I'm finally getting the hang of this...)

OK, so here goes:

Yesterday, I took the train from Albany — the station closest to my house — down to New York City. When I got to Manhattan, the weather was horrendous — it was snowing, but also sporadically hailing and raining — and the sidewalks were coated with crunchy slush. I had to get from Penn Station to the studios of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, at Third Avenue at 47th Street. (The things authors will do for their books — would they even do them for their children?) I could take the subway only as far as Grand Central, at Lexington and 42nd Street. By the time I had walked the rest of the way, I was sopping. I was ushered into the lobby and left to entertain myself with a stack of old Newsweeks. After a while, the technician came to fetch me. I was still wet and, by now, freezing.

"Doesn't seem like global warming, does it?" she said cheerfully.

"That's the ...

Balmy Alaska

The other day, I got the following email from man named Tony Weyiouanna.

Hello everyone from balmy Shishmaref, Alaska! 40 degrees above zero in February! This weather is unheard of this time of the year and open water to the beach. This is the first time in my life I've seen open water this close to the shore in February. Thought some of you might be interested in seeing the photos I took today.

Attached were these pictures:


I met Tony two years ago, when I went to visit Shishmaref. It was the first place I traveled to for my book, and it was an extraordinary experience. Shishmaref is an Inupiat village that sits on a small island called as Sarichef, about five miles off the Seward Peninsula. To get there, you have to take a bush plane from Nome. (The flight that I took also made a stop to pick up a woman who was transporting a load of reindeer meat.)

In recent years, Shishmaref has achieved an unfortunate sort of fame, owing to the fact that Sarichef is washing away. It used to be that the island was protected from fall storms by sea ...

The Day after Yesterday

So the talk went pretty well (I think); at least there weren't people rushing for the door, which was a relief. I received a couple of suggestions about how to improve it, one being to use more pictures, like the one below, which shows a research station called Swiss Camp that I visited when I went back to Greenland, in 2004:

Swiss Camp

One of the things that was curious about the talk — which was noted in the Q&A — was the make-up of the audience. You'd think that if you were speaking on a college campus about a topic like global warming, you'd get a lot of students. Truly it is their future that's at stake. But in fact, the audience was made up mainly of faculty members and people from the community (many of them, admittedly, friends of mine). In general, I'm flummoxed by the politics of college campuses these days, to the extent that there are any. What do eighteen-year-olds care about? Before my talk, I led a seminar with a group of environmental studies students. (If you ever agree to speak at a college, beware: you will also ...

Lecture Notes

Tonight I'm giving a lecture on global warming at Williams College. I was asked to give the lecture by a friend who works at the college's Center for Environmental Studies, someone I got to know during a fight against a local development project. (My husband also works at Williams, and we live in Williamstown, MA, at the edge of what used to be a rural neighborhood filled with cows and is now a formerly-rural neighborhood filled with second homes.) When I agreed to give the lecture, months and months ago, my assumption was that having spent the last two years writing about global warming, I wouldn't have any trouble coming up with something to say. Of course, I was mistaken. (Only Day 2 of this blog, and already this seems to be becoming a theme???)

One of the things that you learn as a journalist (or at least should learn) is the importance of genre. I worked for many years at the New York Times ??? fourteen, to be exact ??? and there I learned to write what everyone would recognize as a New York Times story. Then I went to work at the New Yorker. ...

On the Ice

When Powell's asked me to be the guest blogger for this week, I immediately said "sure." (I say "sure" to a lot of things, often without thinking them through.) The attraction of blogs is that they're breezy, witty, and personal. My book is about global warming, which is serious, depressing, and ??? by definition ??? beyond any one person's experience. When you write about global warming, you start to feel that a lot of what we all spend our time worrying (or blogging) about isn't what we should be worrying (or blogging) about at all. (Which isn't to say you stop worrying about it ??? or, I suppose, blogging.)

I first started thinking about global warming from the perspective of a reporter, rather than that of a mother or a gardener or a concerned citizen, about six years ago, when I picked up a book that had been sent to the offices of the New Yorker. The New Yorker receives hundreds of books every week ??? perhaps thousands, I don't think anyone keeps track ??? and a large proportion of these eventually find their way to what's called "the bench," which is exactly what the name suggests. Books on "the ...

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