State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Climate and the Personal Essay — A Reading List

The Earth Institute recently announced Mary Annaïse Heglar as its first writer-in-residence, a newly launched joint initiative of the Earth Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Heglar, a noted climate justice essayist, will spend the next six months at Columbia exploring the intersection of climate science, art and literature.

Starting this Friday, Heglar will be leading a reading group for Columbia students that explores climate change topics through personal essays. Each week, students will read a few chosen pieces around a specific theme, with a particular emphasis on emotional depth and marginalized communities.

The climate crisis may be scientific and political, but it is also deeply emotional and personal, and Heglar seeks to create a safe space for students to explore that emotionality. Students will meet weekly to discuss the chosen essays, and will be encouraged to journal and invited to share their own writing. According to Heglar, “I’m hoping that participants, including myself, will be able to see ourselves in these stories and use that reflection to hone our own voices.”

While this seminar is only open to Columbia students, others can follow along. The nine-week reading list is below.

Week 1: Climate Grief

Week 2: The Problem with Hope

Week 3: If Not Hope, What?

Week 4: We’re Not Recreating the Wheel

Week 5: Who’s Missing?

Week 6: There Are No Heroes

Week 7: Out with the Guilt

Week 8: The Great Impotence

Week 9: What Now?

Students interested in attending the reading group can reach out to Cynthia Thomson at

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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