Welcome to The Deep Read, an annual program of The Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz. We invite curious minds to think deeply about books and the most pressing issues of our contemporary moment.
This year, we read Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future by Pulitzer Prize- winning science journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. This nonfiction book explores the role that human ingenuity has played in creating climate change and the role it plays now in creating a sustainable future.
Together, we considered the stark changes taking place in the world and explore the efforts to adapt and survive in this era of climate change. We looked at how a humanistic approach to the subject can help us navigate this difficult reality and live ethically in a period of ongoing climate crisis.
Catch up on our weekly explorations:
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Exploring Under a White Sky
This program is all about reading deeply with the help from scholars at UC Santa Cruz. Over 4 weeks starting in late-April, we read Elizabeth Kolbert’s book together.
Here’s what we did:
Deep Read Scholars
We enlisted a knowledgeable group of UC Santa Cruz professors who will help us analyze the book:
Jorge Menna Barreto, Environmental Art
Mike Beck, Marine Sciences, Director of the Center for Coastal Climate Resilience
Jody Biehl, Literature and Science Communication Program
Sikina Jinnah, Environmental Studies
Elizabeth Kolbert in Conversation with Ezra Klein
This year’s program culminated in a live discussion of Under a White Sky with author Elizabeth Kolbert in conversation with NY Times columnist, podcast host and alumnus Ezra Klein on May 21, 2023, at UC Santa Cruz’s Quarry Amphitheater. Watch the video.
There were weekly emails that dove into a different aspect of the book, guided by UC Santa Cruz professors in the Humanities, Sciences, Social Sciences, and Arts.
On May 4, we hosted a salon-style event at the Cowell Hay Barn where our participating professors led a discussion of the book with UCSC students and the broader Deep Read community. Watch the video of the Deep Read Faculty Salon here.
On June 7, we hosted a Community Salon at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center. Co-sponsored by The Humanities Institute and Lookout Santa Cruz, this event focused on actions we all can take in the face of climate change. Ecology Action, Elkhorn Slough Foundation, and Regeneración Pajaro Valley led the discussion moderated by Jody Beihl. Watch the video.
We hosted online forums for each of the weekly explorations of the book where Deep Readers asked questions, post comments, and engage with fellow Deep Readers.
This year’s Deep Read course—Climate Narratives: Elizabeth Kolbert and the Literature of Climate Change—features climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert’s nonfiction, specifically The Sixth Extinction (2014) and Under a White Sky (2021). Students read Kolbert’s climate journalism alongside other narrative genres, from film and comics about climate change to realist and dystopian climate fiction, to consider the limits and possibilities of each narrative form and to understand the role they play in raising awareness about climate change and promoting climate justice. Students had the opportunity to meet Elizabeth Kolbert during her visit to campus and share insights with the broader Deep Read community throughout the program.
A Humanities Institute Initiative
For over 20 years, The Humanities Institute has fostered a vibrant community at the center of UC Santa Cruz and at the cutting edge of Humanities research, education, and public engagement. This work is essential in the face of ever-changing and tumultuous times. And the Deep Read is our newest platform for intellectual engagement, classes on campus, and major events with top writers and thinkers. We aim to foster thinking deeply across all mediums, driven by conversation and timely engagement with art, culture, politics and scholars here at UC Santa Cruz who see the forest and the trees every day.
Deep Read Partners
The Humanities Institute
College Scholars Program
Division of Student Affairs and Success
Council of Provosts
Center for Coastal Climate Resilience
Confronting Climate Change Conference
Living Writers Series
Phi Beta Kapa
Seymour Marine Discovery Center
Events of Interest
April 13—Confronting Climate Change Conference
May 5—Santa Cruz Book Club: Spring Book Swap
May 12—Book and Brunch Student Event | 11am-1pm @ Cowell Courtyard
May 23—UCSC Climate Coalition: Collage the World you Want to See