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Coming February 2021
available for preorder

Under a White Sky

Elizabeth Kolbert

The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sixth Extinction returns to humanity’s transformative impact on the environment, now asking: After doing so much damage, can we change nature, this time to save it?
That man should have dominion “over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” is a prophecy that has hardened into fact. So pervasive are human impacts on the planet that it’s said we live in a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene.
In Under a White Sky, Elizabeth Kolbert takes a hard look at the new world we are creating. She meets scientists who are trying to preserve the world’s rarest fish, which lives in a single, tiny pool in the middle of the Mojave. She visits a lava field in Iceland, where engineers are turning carbon emissions to stone; an aquarium in Australia, where researchers are trying to develop “super coral” that can survive on a hotter globe; and a lab at Harvard, where physicists are contemplating shooting tiny diamonds into the stratosphere in order to reflect sunlight back to space and cool the earth.

One way to look at human civilization, says Kolbert, is as a ten-thousand-year exercise in defying nature. In The Sixth Extinction, she explored the ways in which our capacity for destruction has reshaped the natural world. Now she examines how the very sorts of interventions that have imperiled our planet are increasingly seen as the only hope for its salvation. By turns inspiring, terrifying, and darkly comic, Under a White Sky is an utterly original examination of the challenges we face.


2/9 @ 5 pm PT | Powell’s (Portland, OR) in conversation with Bill McKibben | more info

2/10 @ 7:30 pm ET | Free Library of Philadelphia | more info

2/11 @ 5 pm PT |  KPFA (San Francisco) | more info

2/15 @ 7 pm ET | Harvard Book Store | more info to come

2/16 @ 6 pm CT | World Affairs Council of Dallas | more info

2/17 @ 7 pm ET | Oblong Books & Music (Rhinebeck, NY) in conversation with WAMC’s Joe Donahue | more info

2/23 @ 5 pm PT | Scripps College (Los Angeles) and the New Republic | more info

2/24 @ 7:30 pm ET | Center for Fiction (Brooklyn, NY) in conversation with novelist Madeleine Watts | more info

3/4 @ 8 pm ET | New York Public Library in conversation with Jeff Goodell | more info to come

3/6 @ 5 pm ET | Cornwall (CT) Library | more info to come

3/17 @ 6:45 pm ET | Smithsonian (Washington, D.C.) | more info to come

3/21 @ 4 pm ET | Montclair (NJ) Public Library in conversation with Michelle Nijhuis | more info

Elizabeth Kolbert

Author photo
Photo: © John Kleiner

Elizabeth Kolbert is the author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change and The Sixth Extinction, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize. For her work at The New Yorker, where she's a a staff writer, she has received two National Magazine Awards and the Blake-Dodd Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts, with her husband and children.

Photos from the Field

Images from the Anthropocene while researching Under A White Sky

All photos (c) Elizabeth Kolbert . Right-click and open image in a new tab to enlarge.

Greenland 2

Reporting from the Jakobshavn icefjord, Greenland's largest outlet glacier

Greenland 1

Walking near the edge of the Greenland ice sheet, which is made up of layers of accumulated snow. About 140' down, there is snow dating from the American Civil War; 2,500' down, from the time of Plato.


The National Sea Simulator, or SeaSim, bills itself as "the most advanced research aquarium in the world." Townsville, Australia

Australian Outback

Visiting a research site off of One Tree Island, a tiny island along the Tropic of Capricorn at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Devil's Hole

At Devils Hole, Nevada, the cavern that is home to Cyprinodon diabolis (Devils Hole Pupfish), the smallest known habitat of any vertebrate


At the Icelandic outpost of Climeworks, a company that disposes of an individual's CO2 emissions by turning them to stone and has the author's credit card information on file


The 1:6,000 replica model of the Mississippi delta at the Center for River Studies, Louisiana State University

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