Deep Read | 24 August 2023

Looking Back at the 2023 Deep Read


During the Spring of 2023, The Humanities Institute produced our fourth and largest annual Deep Read program focused on Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist Elizabeth Kolbert’s book Under a White Sky. Over 8,500 students, alumni, faculty, staff, and readers around the world considered her perspective on the stark changes taking place in our world and explored the efforts we are making to adapt and survive in the era of climate change. As we prepare for next year’s program, we wanted to share the breadth and depth of all we did last year.

As we do every year, we read our annual text closely and comprehensively with the help from scholars at UC Santa Cruz. We read Elizabeth Kolbert’s book with the Deep Read community over 4 weeks, starting in late-April. Here are all the ways we engaged with the book:

Deep Read Scholars

We enlisted a knowledgeable group of UC Santa Cruz professors who helped us analyze the book from a variety of perspectives: 

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 

Faculty Salon

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.

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. Over 750 Deep Readers attended the thought-provoking event.  Watch the video.

Email Explorations

We produced 4 weekly emails that reflected on a different aspect of the book, guided by this year’s Deep Read scholars.

Week 1: Read the World 

Week 2: Craft and Calamity

Week 3: Best Coast

Week 4: Look Up

Community Salon

On June 7, we hosted a Community Salon at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center. Co-sponsored by Lookout Santa Cruz, this event focused on actions and projects that local organizations are taking in the face of climate change, providing ways for the community to engage locally with climate issues raised in Kolbert’s book. Ecology Action, Elkhorn Slough Foundation, and Regeneración Pajaro Valley led the discussion moderated by Jody Biehl. Watch the video.

The Class

This year’s Deep Read course—Climate Narratives: Elizabeth Kolbert and the Literature of Climate Change—featured climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert’s climate journalism alongside other narrative genres, from film and comics about climate change to realist and dystopian climate fiction. It was taught by Laura Martin at Porter College.  Students also had the opportunity to meet Elizabeth Kolbert during her visit to campus and engage with her and her work.

What’s next?

We’re finalizing the details of the next Deep Read now. Look for the book announcement in Fall 2023. In the meantime, stay attuned!