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Villanova University Selects Pulitzer Prize Winner Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” as 2016-17 Villanova One Book

Kolbert’s book discusses the consequences of continued man-made degradation of Earth’s environment and the need for greater sustainability

Villanova University Selects Pulitzer Prize Winner Elizabeth Kolbert’s  “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” as 2016-17 Villanova One Book

Villanova University has chosen The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Kolbert as its 2016-17 One Book Villanova program selection. The Sixth Extinction sounds a clarion call warning that a massive annihilation of 20-50 percent of all living species on Earth could occur by the end of the 21st century unless man-made climate change is acknowledged and sustainability efforts are stepped up immediately.

In The Sixth Extinction, Kolbert, a New Yorker science writer, explains that the world has undergone five mass extinctions over the last half-billion years, each resulting in an abrupt and radical loss of biodiversity. Scientists worldwide are currently monitoring what they believe to be the sixth extinction. Kolbert reasons that how it plays out is mankind’s choice.

“The Sixth Extinction marks a bit of a departure from the books typically selected by the One Book Committee, “ said Teresa A. Nance, Ph.D., Associate Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, Chief Diversity Officer, and One Book Villanova committee co-chair. “Kolbert’s description of what’s happening in nature and the environment takes on immediate and personal consequences.  Even more important, many members of our Villanova community have already expressed their deep interest and concern about this topic. “

In addition to receiving a copy of The Sixth Extinction this summer, all incoming students will receive a link to the papal encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home. “We are excited to make the connection between the book and the encyclical,” Nance said. “We think that reading the book and the encyclical will lead to many valuable conversations.”

One Book Villanova is a distinctive educational program that engages all segments of the campus community – students, staff and faculty – in activities presented throughout the academic year which explore dominant themes presented in a selected book.

“This year’s One Book Villanova selection combines the dialogue surrounding the scientific, moral, and theological implications of climate change,” said Jeffrey Brown, Director of Student Involvement and One Book Villanova committee co-chair. “Through reading The Sixth Extinction we come to a better understanding of the real changes happening right before us. With the supplemental reading of On Care for Our Common Home we are reminded that caring for our future home is also caring for one another.”

“The Sixth Extinction will resonate strongly with the Villanova community,” said Millicent Gaskell, Director of the University’s Falvey Memorial Library and One Book Villanova co-chair. “This generation of students is deeply and particularly cognizant of the intimate, inseparable connection between human activity and life on this planet. The choices we make over the next few years have enormous consequences for this and future generations. The Sixth Extinction is both powerful and accessible, and is something everyone should read.”

Discussion groups, public readings and special events will enliven and extend the campus community’s examination of The Sixth Extinction throughout the 2016-17 academic year. A visit by the author to campus on September 22—as part of the University’s St. Thomas of Villanova celebration—will include a presentation open to the public. Details of the event will be made available, as the date approaches, on the University’s One Book Villanova Website.

The selection of The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History is one more indicator of Villanova’s strong commitment to sustainability. The University continues to be recognized as one of the nation’s greenest colleges.  Villanova recently received national recognition for its commitment to sustainability by both Sierra Magazine and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). The University recycles and composts up to 41% of its waste, sending all of its trash to Covanta, an energy-from-waste facility that burns the trash for electricity. Villanova has installed 20 hydration stations on campus to make it more convenient to fill up reusable water bottles. The initiative has already saved the equivalent of more than 1.5 million water bottles.  The University also incorporates its commitment to the environment into its community service initiatives. Villanova was named the Green Apple Day of Service Champions by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in 2014. To learn more about Villanova’s commitment to environmental sustainability, click here.

Other selections featured since the One Book Villanova program began in 2005 include The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseni, Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy Tyson, Left To Tell by Immaculée Ilibagiza, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji, The Unforgiving Minute by Craig Mullaney, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, by Conor Grennan, Good Kings, Bad Kings, by Susan Nussbaum, and The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, by Wes Moore, and The Distance Between Us: A Memoir, by Reyna Grande.

Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit