Virtual: Object Lessons Panel featuring Bird, Environment, Coffee, & Ocean!
Join RJ Julia for this free virtual event.
Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things. Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in the The Atlantic.
Hope, as Emily Dickinson famously wrote, is the thing with feathers. Erik Anderson, on the other hand, regards our obsession with birds as too sentimental, too precious. Birds don’t express hope. They express themselves. But this tension between the versions of nature that lodge in our minds and the realities that surround us is the central theme of Bird.
This is no field guide. It’s something far more unusual and idiosyncratic, balancing science with story, anatomy with metaphor, habitat with history. Anderson illuminates the dark underbelly of our bird fetish and offers a fresh, alternative vision of one of nature’s most beloved objects.
Erik Anderson is the author of three previous books of nonfiction: The Poetics of Trespass (2010), Estranger (2016), and Flutter Point: Essays (2017), selected by Amy Fusselman for the 2015 Zone 3 Nonfiction Book Prize. He teaches creative writing at Franklin & Marshall College, USA, and lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
What is the environment, this elusive object that impacts us so profoundly--our odds to be born; the way we look, feel, and function; and how long and comfortable we may live? The environment is not only everything we see around us but also, at a lesser scale, a hailstorm of molecules large and small that constantly penetrates our bodies, simultaneously nourishing and threatening our health. The concept of oneness with our surroundings urges a reckoning of what we are doing to ‘the environment,’ and consequently, what we are doing to ourselves.
By taking us through this journey of questioning, Rolf Halden’s Environment empowers readers with new knowledge and a heightened appreciation of how our daily lifestyle decisions are impacting the places we occupy, our health, and humanity’s prospect of survival.
Rolf Halden, PhD, PE, is Director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering, Biodesign Institute, Professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, and Senior Sustainability Scientist at the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, USA. Professor Halden's scientific discoveries and opinions have been covered in documentaries, radio shows, podcasts, and media outlets, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time, Scientific American, and Forbes. He serves on the Expert Team of the American Chemical Society and has been invited repeatedly to brief decision-makers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Academies, and members of U.S. Congress on issues pertaining to environmental health and sustainability.
Coffee--it's the thing that gets us through, and over, and around. The thing--the beverage, the break, the ritual--we choose to slow ourselves down or speed ourselves up. The excuse to pause; the reason to meet; the charge we who drink it allow ourselves in lieu of something stronger or scarier. Coffee goes to lifestyle, and character, and sensibility: where do we buy it, how do we brew it, how strong can we take it, how often, how hot, how cold? How does coffee remind us, stir us, comfort us?
But Coffee is about more than coffee: it's a personal history and a promise to self; in her confrontation with the hours (with time--big picture, little picture), Dinah Lenney faces head-on the challenges of growing older and carrying on.
Dinah Lenney is a member of the core faculty of the Bennington Writing Seminars, and the author or editor of four books, including The Object Parade (2014). Her essays and reviews have been published in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Washington Post among other publications.
The ocean comprises the largest object on our planet. Retelling human history from an oceanic rather than terrestrial point of view unsettles our relationship with the natural environment. Our engagement with the world's oceans can be destructive, as with today’s deluge of plastic trash and acidification, but the mismatch between small bodies and vast seas also emphasizes the frailty and resilience of human experience.
From ancient stories of shipwrecked sailors to the containerized future of 21st-century commerce, Ocean splashes the histories we thought we knew into salty and unfamiliar places.
Steve Mentz is Professor of English at St John's University, USA. He is the author of three books, including Shipwreck Modernity: Ecologies of Globalization, 1550 - 1719 (2015), and the editor of four books. His maritime research has been supported by the Folger Shakespeare Library, the John Carter Brown Library, Mystic Seaport, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Maritime Museum in London.