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Town Hall Seattle: Science Series

Town Hall’s Science series is dedicated to understanding the world around us. Whether we’re hearing from a legendary physicist or a UW graduate student, the Science series explores math, biology, chemistry, the environment, and so much more.

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Apr 6, 2021

We live at a time in which scientists race to reanimate extinct beasts, our most essential ecosystems require monumental engineering projects to survive, chicken breasts grow in test tubes, and multinational corporations conspire to poison the blood of every living creature. No rock, leaf, or cubic foot of air on Earth has escaped humanity’s clumsy signature. The old distinctions—between natural and artificial, dystopia and utopia, science fiction and science fact—have blurred, losing all meaning. So author Nathaniel Rich argues in his book Second Nature: Scenes from a World Remade.

With intimate stories from ordinary people making desperate efforts to preserve their humanity in a world that seems increasingly alien, Rich joined us to share from this deeply reported book. In conversation with fellow author Claire Vaye Watkins, he presented a beautifully told exploration of our post-natural world, one that helps us understand our place in a reality that resembles nothing human beings have known. Together, they wondered what it means to live in an era of terrible ecological responsibility. The question is no longer, How do we return to the world that we’ve lost?, they express, but rather What world do we want to create in its place?

Nathaniel Rich is the author of Losing Earth: A Recent History and the novels King Zeno, Odds Against Tomorrow, and The Mayor’s Tongue. He is a writer at large for The New York Times Magazine and a regular contributor to The Atlantic, Harper’s, and The New York Review of Books.

Claire Vaye Watkins is the author of the novel Gold Fame Citrusand the short story collection Battleborn. A National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree, Watkins is a professor at the University of California Irvine.

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