Peter Matthiessen -- environmentalist, winner of the National Book Award and author of 30 books -- will present the 2012 Jill and Ken Iscol Distinguished Environmental Lecture on "Big Oil and Our First Climate Change Refugees," at 4:30 p.m., April 23, in Statler Auditorium.
The conservationist will discuss the Arctic, where climate change is the new reality. In this fragile ecosystem, potentially severe negative effects of large-scale fossil fuel development -- especially offshore prospecting and drilling -- are already taking their toll on the Arctic Sea ice and permafrost, on Arctic wildlife and on indigenous peoples, he says.
Matthiessen's sobering conclusions are based on his travels in Alaska over many years and his conversations with people in the course of research journeys to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Prudhoe Bay, the Ututok Plateau in the vast National Petroleum Reserve, and some small beleaguered communities on the Arctic and Bering Sea coasts, whose inhabitants are the world's first climate change refugees.
Matthiessen has been an advocate for the world's peoples, oceans, forests and wildlife. His 1959 work, "Wildlife in America," was one of the first books to call attention to global warming. His acclaimed nonfiction includes "The Cloud Forest" (1961), "The Tree Where Man Was Born" (1972), "The Snow Leopard" (1978), "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse" (1983), "Indian Country" (1992) and "End of the Earth" (2003). His fiction includes "At Play in the Fields of the Lord" (1965) and "Shadow Country" (2008).
While on campus, Matthiessen also will visit several classes and speak with graduate students.
His visit is sponsored by the Jill and Ken Iscol Distinguished Environmental Lectureship, which brings prominent scholars, newsmakers, scientists and leaders to Cornell to address environmental issues of paramount importance to humankind. It is presented by the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.