10th Symposium on Wildness, Wilderness & the Environmental Imagination


Resilience Thinking in Dystopic Times


Spring 2014
Iowa State University


All Events are Free & Open to the Public

(Click here for brochure)




Alan Weisman — Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?

Monday, February 24 — 8:00 pm
Great Hall, Memorial Union

Weisman_Alan Author and journalist Alan Weisman’s bestselling book The World Without Us asked readers to envision how our planet would respond to a loss of the human race. His new book, Countdown: Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth? tackles population Weisman Countdowngrowth and the challenges it poses for a sustainable human future. The book took him to more than twenty countries, seeking insight into how we could achieve a stable, optimum population and design an economy that allows for prosperity without endless growth. Alan Weisman’s reports have been featured in publications ranging from the Atlantic Monthly to Vanity Fair.  He is a former contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times Magazine, a senior radio producer for Homelands Productions and teaches international journalism at the University of Arizona. Kick-off Event for the Symposium on Wildness, Wilderness & the Environmental Imagination and the University Symposium on Sustainability.


Max Brooks — 10 Lessons for Surviving a Zombie Attack

Friday, March 7 — 11:00 pm
Great Hall, Memorial Union


Max Brooks, author of The Zombie Survival Guide, is considered to be one of the world’s foremost Zombie experts. He won an Emmy as a writer for Saturday Night Live and is the son of legendary comedian Mel Brooks and Anne Brooks_World War ZBancroft. His other New York Times bestsellers include the graphic novel The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks and World War Z, which has now been made into a movie starring Brad Pitt. Even the CDC has embraced this pop culture phenomenon, citing Brooks and the “Zombie Apocalypse” in its call for disaster and survival preparedness.  Sponsored by ISU After Dark, the Inter-Residence Hall Association, and the Committee on Lectures (funded by GSB)


10th Annual Symposium on Wildness, Wilderness & the Environmental Imagination

Resilience Thinking in Dystopic Times

March 30 – 31, 2014


Rescuing the World: Ecological Disaster in the Young Adult Novel

Sunday, March 30 — 2:00 – 3:30 pm
Sun Room, Memorial Union

Panel Discussion:  Young adult fiction has always had a tradition of taking its teen protagonists on adventures in fantastic and unlikely places. However, more and more of these heroes are young women forced to grow up in a world damaged and corrupted by previous generations. These stories are still adventures of the classic type, but in these new fictional worlds created in the past couple of decades, the main characters must navigate ecological and political forces that take into account the mistakes we are making now. These characters—along with their readers—are challenged with the task of rescuing their world before what is left of it is gone forever.  This panel will discuss how these themes play out in such books as The Hunger Games, The Uglies, and The Ship Breakers.

Panel Members:  Tanvia Rastogi, the teen librarian from the Ames Public Library; and four faculty members from the Department of English, Brianna Burke, Donna Niday, Charissa Menefee, and David Zimmerman.


Flyway Magazine’s “Home Voices” Reading

Sunday, March 30 — 3:30 – 4 pm
Sun Room, Memorial Union


Join us for a reading of the “Home Voices” Award Winners from Flyway: A Journal of Writing & Environment.  The winning pieces were selected by the contest judge, Elizabeth Bradfield, the author of Approaching Ice and Interpretive Work.

Lindsay D’Andrea:       “Rock Wall, New Hampshire”
Dana Thomann:          “Flood Gap”

Originally from southern New Jersey, Lindsay D’Andrea is currently an M.F.A. candidate in Creative Writing and Environment at Iowa State University. Her recent work can be found in The Greensboro ReviewFiddleblack, and InDigest Magazine.

Dana Thomann is the proud daughter of sustainable Iowa farmers. She began a teaching career with Teach for America on the Rosebud Reservation in 2005, and later worked for TRiO Programs at The University of Iowa. She is currently an MFA candidate in Creative Writing and Environment at Iowa State University.


Kevin Brockmeier — The Brief History of the Dead

Sunday, March 30 — 7:00 pm
Sun Room, Memorial Union

Brockmeier_KevinKevin Brockmeier is the author of the novels The Brief History of the Dead, The Truth About Celia, The Illumination, and the children’s novels City of Names and Grooves: brockmeier brief history of the deadA Kind of Mystery, and the story collections Things That Fall from the Sky and The View from the Seventh Layer. His work has been published in The New Yorker, The Georgia Review, McSweeney’s, Zoetrope, The Oxford American, The Best American Short Stories, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and New Stories from the South.  Brockmeier has received the Borders Original Voices Award, three O. Henry Awards, the PEN USA Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an NEA Grant. He was also named one of Granta magazine’s Best Young American Novelists. He lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he was raised.


Natalie Diaz — Language, Poetry, and Resilience

Monday, March 31 — 3:30 – 4:30 pm
Sun Room, Memorial Union


Join us for a moderated conversation with poet Natalie Diaz about the process of writing poems, about the place of myth in writing, and about the language revitalization program she directs at Fort Mojave, where she works and teaches with the last Elder speakers of the Mojave language.

I write hungry sentences, Natalie Diaz once explained in an interview, because they want more and more lyricism and imagery to satisfy them.  [Diaz’s] debut collection is a fast-paced tour of Mojave life and family narrative: A sister fights for or against a brother on meth, and everyone from Antigone, Houdini, Huitzilopochtli, and Jesus is invoked and invited to hash it out. These darkly humorous poems illuminate far corners of the heart, revealing teeth, tails, and more than a few dreams.” –amazon.com


Natalie Diaz & K. L. Cook — Interior Mythologies: Literary Readings & Discussion

Monday, March 31 — 8:00 pm
Sun Room, Memorial Union

Diaz_NatalieNatalie Diaz is the author of the poetry collection When My Brother Was an Aztec. She is a recipient of the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, the Narrative Poetry Prize, and a Lannan diaz when my brother was an aztecLiterary Fellowship. Diaz is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian community. She earned a BA from Old Dominion University, where she received a full athletic scholarship. She played professional basketball in Europe and Asia before returning to Old Dominion to earn an MFA. Diaz lives in Mohave Valley, Arizona, where she works with the last speakers of Mojave and directs a language revitalization program.



K. L. Cook is the author of three books of fiction.His most recent book, Love Songs for the Quarantined, won the Spokane Prize Cook_Love Songs for the Quarantinedfor Short Fiction. His novel, The Girl from Charnelle, won The Willa Award for Contemporary Fiction, and his first book, Last Call, won the inaugural Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction. Cook’s work has appeared in Glimmer Train, One Story, Poets &Writers, Prairie Schooner, the Harvard Review and other journals.  He is an associate professor of English at Iowa State University where he teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Environment.


Additional Event of Interest — 2014 Thompson Memorial Lecture


Walter Echo-Hawk—In the Light of Justice

Monday, March 31 — 6:30 pm
Great Hall, Memorial Union

Walter Echo HawkWalter Echo-Hawk is a lawyer, tribal judge, scholar and activist, with legal experience that includes cases involving Native American religious freedom, prisoner rights, water rights,Echo Hawk_In the Light of Justice treaty rights, and reburial/repatriation rights. A Native American rights attorney since 1973, he was instrumental in the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (1990) and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments (1994). Echo-Hawk has written extensively about the rise of modern Indian nations. He is the author of In the Courts of the Conqueror: The 10 Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided and, most recently, In the Light of Justice: The Rise of Human Rights in Native America & the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The 2014 Thompson Memorial Lecture

Note:  The Battle Ground Road drum group and Meskwaki Nation Dancers will perform at 6:30 p.m., preceding Walter Echo-Hawk’s 7:00 p.m. talk. Iowa State University’s ROTC Joint Color Guard will join members of the Robert Morgan Post 701 from Tama, Iowa, to present the colors at 6:50 pm.



Informal Conversation with Elizabeth Kolbert

Thursday, April 3 — 3:00 – 4:00 pm
212 Ross Hall

Please join us for an informal conversation with journalist and environmental writer, Elizabeth Kolbert, about the process of uncovering, researching and writing large environmental stories.

“Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind’s most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.”  –amazon.com


Elizabeth Kolbert — The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

Thursday, April 3 — 8:00 pm
Great Hall, Memorial Union


Journalist and environmental writer, Elizabeth Kolbert is the author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change.  In Field Notes from a Catastrophe, Kolbert traveled from Alaska to Greenland and visited top scieKolbert_Field Notes from the Catastrophentists to get to the heart of the debate over global warming.  The book was chosen as one of the 100 Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review.  Her new book about the planet’s mass extinctions, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, weaves intellectual and natural history with Kolbert_Sixth Extinctionreporting in the field.  Kolbert has also been the recipient of the National Academy of Sciences Communication Award, a Lannan Writing Fellowship, a Heinz Award, a National Magazine Award, and the Sierra Club’s 2011 David R. Brower Award.  Kolbert’s stories have also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vogue, and Mother Jones, and have been anthologized in The Best American Science and Nature Writing and The Best American Political Writing. Prior to joining the staff of The New Yorker, Kolbert was a political reporter for The New York Times.  Part of the Symposium on Wildness, Wilderness & the Environmental Imagination and the World Affairs Series. 




♦ MFA Program in Creative Writing and Environment ♦ College of Liberal Arts & Sciences ♦ Committee on Lectures (funded by GSB) ♦ Humanities Iowa ♦ WWEI (Student Organization) ♦ Department of English ♦ Center for Excellence in the Arts & Humanities ♦ ISU Bioethics Program ♦ Department of Ecology, Evolution & Organismal Biology ♦ Department of History ♦ The Henry A. Wallace Endowed Chair for Sustainable Agriculture ♦ College of Design ♦  Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture ♦



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