Office of Sustainability

University of Mississippi

We are pleased to announce the Keynote Speaker for Green Week 2017:

David George Haskell

“The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature” by David George Haskell.

Professor of Biology, Sewanee: The University of the South
B. A., University of Oxford;
Ph. D., Cornell University

Evolutionary biologist and ecologist David George Haskell understands the value in observing the world through many lenses. In his book, “The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature,” Haskell weaves together the insights of many different disciplines–science, history, even religion and philosophy–to provide the reader a complete picture of nature. His methodology? Make daily observations of the same square meter of forest on the perimeter of Sewanee’s campus. Haskell illustrates the complexity that presents itself even through such a small window.

Of Haskell, New York Times writer James Gormon said:

“He thinks like a biologist, writes like a poet, and gives the natural world the kind of open-minded attention one expects from a Zen monk rather than a hypothesis-driven scientist.”

In The Forest Unseen, Haskell likens his randomly selected patch of nature to a mandala, the sand paintings made by Buddhist monks to represent the universe. Although Haskell seems resistant to view this project as an experiment in the scientific sense, he does posit a initial question in the book:

“Can the whole forest be seen through a small contemplative window of leaves, rocks and water?”

David George Haskell. Photo Credit: Buck Butler.

According to the book’s website, The Forest Unseen won Best Book Award from the National Academies in 2013. It was also a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction, and a runner-up for the 2013 PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. The Forest Unseen was also named the 2013 Reed Environmental Writing Award, and the winner of the 2012 National Outdoor Book Award for Natural History Literature. In 2013, David George Haskell was named a 2014 Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Haskell has also published articles, essays, and poems, and is working on his second book, which will focus on the music of forest acoustics.

The annual Earth Day keynote address is chiefly organized by the Environmental Studies Department. Past keynotes have included Linda Hogan, Paige West, and Rob Nixon. Green Week 2017 will take place April 16th-22nd. Check back for more updates about Green Week 2017, or click here to learn more about Green Week 2016.

Check back later for more information about events relating to the keynote, including a The Forest Unseen book club series. For syllabi consideration, this book’s applicable areas include, but are not limited to: biology, ecology, nonfiction literature, nature writing, science writing, evolutionary biology.