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Noted expert to explore effects of global oil crisis

James Howard Kuntsler

Urban planning expert and journalist James Howard Kunstler will speak on “The Long Emergency: Global oil crisis, climate change and other converging catastrophes of the 21st century” on Wednesday, Sept. 16.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 7 p.m. in Lewis Lab 270. The talk is hosted by Lehigh’s South Mountain College (SMC), a residential academic program.

Based on his most recent nonfiction book of the same name, Kunstler will examine urban sprawl and automobile culture by exploring the sweeping economic, political and social changes that will result from the end of access to cheap fossil fuels.

Students enrolled in SMC participate in a unique course entitled Investigations, which explores topics and themes through a cross-disciplinary approach. Peter Zeitler, professor of earth and environmental sciences and a faculty member in SMC, saw Kunstler as a natural fit for the theme of this year’s Investigation course, “How and Where We Live.” During his visit, Kunstler will also hold a workshop with SMC students that will relate to their coursework.

“One of the goals of SMC is to get students into conversation with experts like Kunstler who have made important contributions to their fields,” says Benjamin Wright, professor of religion studies and director of SMC. “These contacts and discussions help students pursue more nuanced lines of inquiry in their research, and they also bring an excitement to the work that the students are undertaking.”

A novelist and journalist, Kunstler has written numerous books, including the first critique of American architecture and urban planning, The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-made Landscape. He has also been published in Rolling Stone, The New York Times and Atlantic Monthly.

“His writings on the American built landscape and the challenges that energy supply will place on our current way of life are perfectly relevant, not only to this SMC course, but in providing context for work under Lehigh's environmental and energy initiatives, and in fact for what the world will be like for our students and for the institution in the decades to come,” says Zeitler, who describes Kunstler as a provocative and passionate speaker.

Kunstler’s visit is sponsored by the Visiting Lecturers Committee and South Mountain College, with support from the South Side Initiative, Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Environmental Initiative.

Story by Tricia Long

Posted on Friday, September 11, 2009

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