2013–14 Life of the Mind Book Will be Eaarth by Bill McKibben

The world is “melting, drying, acidifying, flooding, and burning” because of destructive environmental changes, and we must alter our ways if we want to keep the planet habitable for ourselves and future generations. That’s the warning from noted environmentalist Bill McKibben in his latest book, Eaarth.

Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet will be next year’s Life of the Mind common reading selection for UT freshmen.

“I invite the campus community to join the Class of 2017 in reading the book and participating in the discussion and related activities that will be held in the fall,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan Martin in announcing the book’s selection.

Now in its tenth year, Life of the Mind is part of First Year Studies 100, a zero-credit, pass-fail class that gives students their first taste of college studies and requires them to complete online lessons on alcohol awareness, financial literacy, plagiarism, technology, civility, and succeeding at UT.

Before arriving on campus, freshmen are to read Eaarth and complete a written response. During Welcome Week, students will hear McKibben speak and attend a small-group discussion session led by a UT faculty or staff member. More details on McKibben’s visit will be announced soon.

Intending to select a book about sustainability for the 2013–14 academic year, Life of the Mind coordinators assembled a committee of faculty, students, and staff to select this year’s book. Although they considered a variety of nonfiction and fiction books, committee members said they chose Eaarth, published in 2010, because it was “clear and direct,” “a really powerful book,” and “accurate, timely, well-written, and well-researched.”

“McKibben’s name is synonymous with climate change,” said John Nolt, philosophy professor and member of the book selection committee. “It will be a huge benefit to our students to get to hear him speak.”

UT debuted its new sustainability major this year, making it one of the first large universities in the Southeast to offer such a program. The interdisciplinary curriculum is intended to equip students to be change makers in producing a sustainable society and environment.

UT is also well known across the nation for its student-initiated campus environmental fee, which funds sustainability efforts on campus.

Ruth Darling, assistant provost for student success and First Year Studies programs, said Eaarth should have wide appeal on campus.

“The theme of Eaarth relates so well to what UT represents and how we are thinking about sustainability,” she said. In connection with this theme, First Year Studies is partnering with the Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment and the Tennessee Valley Authority to support a service-learning workshop for faculty planning to teach FYS 129 seminars that focus on some aspect of sustainability. More information about this opportunity and other initiatives, including Life of the Mind programming, will be posted soon.

McKibben has written ten books, including The End of Nature and Deep Economy that have helped shape public opinion about climate change, alternative energy, and the need for more localized economies.

McKibben formerly worked as a staff writer at the New Yorker and is a contributor to Rolling Stone, the Atlantic, National Geographic, and the New York Review of Books.

McKibben formerly worked as a staff writer at the New Yorker and is a contributor to various magazines, including Rolling Stone, the Atlantic, National Geographic and the New York Review of Books.

He has received Guggenheim and Lyndhurst Fellowships, as well as the Lannan Prize for nonfiction writing in 2000.

He is a scholar in residence in environmental studies at Middlebury College and lives in Vermont with his wife, the writer Sue Halpern, and their daughter.

Life of the Mind committee members were Darling, committee chair; Chris  Cox, professor and associate department head in chemical and electrical engineering; Paul Erwin, professor and director of the Department of Public Health; Joanne Logan, associate professor in biosystems engineering and soil science; Thura Mack, library professor; Mike McKinney, professor of environmental sciences and director of UT’s new sustainability major; Nolt; Nate Sanders, professor in ecology and evolutionary biology; Tricia Stuth, associate professor of architecture; Stella Bridgeman-Prince, assistant director, Student Success Center; Melissa Shivers, assistant vice chancellor, Student Life; Michael Croal, graduate student in public policy administration and First-Year Studies graduate teaching assistant; and undergraduate student members Evan Ford and Elisabeth Spratt.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)

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