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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Vanishing Point: An Evening With Elizabeth Kolbert

Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.

October 31, 2017

Vanishing Point: An Evening With Elizabeth Kolbert

Author of Rensselaer ‘Community Read’ book will discuss how one decision can and often does have monumental consequences on Nov. 2

Rensselaer will host “Vanishing Point: An Evening With Elizabeth Kolbert,” on Thursday, November 2, at 7 p.m. The talk will be held in the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center.

Elizabeth Kolbert traveled from Alaska to Greenland, and visited top scientists to get to the heart of the debate over global warming. Her books bring the environment into the consciousness of the American people and ask what, if anything, can be done, and how we can save our planet. She explains the science and the studies, draws frightening parallels to lost ancient civilizations, unpacks the politics, and presents the personal tales of those who are being affected most—the people who make their homes near the poles and, in an eerie foreshadowing, are watching their worlds disappear. Her most recent book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, is a book about mass extinctions that weaves intellectual and natural history with reporting in the field.


Faculty from the Rensselaer School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS), in partnership with Student Life, selected two titles for the 2017-18 Community Read. The selected books are The Sixth Extinction and Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will by Geoff Colvin.

The tradition of a Community Read for Rensselaer students was established in 2015, using the theme of the President’s Commencement Colloquy as a concept for exploration by the entire Rensselaer community in the following academic year. The theme of the 2017 colloquy, on which the current book selections were based, was “Criticality, Incisiveness, and Creativity.”

“We are very excited to welcome Elizabeth Kolbert to campus,” said Mary Simoni, dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at Rensselaer. “We chose The Sixth Extinction as a Rensselaer Community Read for 2017-18 because we felt it exemplifies this year’s theme of ‘Criticality, Incisiveness, and Creativity.’ In challenging readers to come to terms with the impact of natural and unnatural processes using data and research—a concept that every Rensselaer student can relate to—Kolbert’s book shows how one decision can and often does have monumental consequences. At RPI, we ask our students to consider how their academic work will make a difference. Elizabeth Kolbert’s book asks us all to consider how our fate as a species is being determined here and now by many small decisions that accumulate into, and create, our future.”

Admission is free, but tickets are required. Tickets can be picked up at the following campus locations: Office of Student Success, Academy Hall, Suite 4600; HASS Hub, Sage 4402; EMPAC Box Office, 7000 Level; Rensselaer Union Administrative Office, 3rd Floor Rensselaer Union.

For more information on the Community Read, go to

Community Read and HASS Inquiry courses are an integral part of The New Polytechnic, a new paradigm for learning and research. Rensselaer leads by using advanced technologies to unite a multiplicity of disciplines and perspectives, in order to take on large, multifaceted challenges to become transformative in three fundamental ways: in the global impact of our research, in our innovative pedagogy, and in the lives of our students.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. For nearly 200 years, Rensselaer has been defining the scientific and technological advances of our world. Rensselaer faculty and alumni represent 85 members of the National Academy of Engineering, 17 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 25 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 8 members of the National Academy of Medicine, 8 members of the National Academy of Inventors, and 5 members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, as well as 6 National Medal of Technology winners, 5 National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With 7,000 students and nearly 100,000 living alumni, Rensselaer is addressing the global challenges facing the 21st century—to change lives, to advance society, and to change the world. To learn more, go to


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