Doctor of Humane Letters

Elizabether Kolbert

May 28, 2023

Listen to an audio recording of Kolbert’s talk, below.

Elizabeth Kolbert P’16 is a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer and journalist who, for more than two decades, has specialized in bringing the realities and complexities of climate change into focus for a very wide audience. Her work combines vivid field reporting with intellectual and natural history, unpacking the politics behind humanity’s transformative impact on our planet and incisively exploring the relationship between what she calls “the human project” and the natural world.

Kolbert’s latest book, Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future—acclaimed as one of the best books of 2021 by The Washington Post, Time, Esquire and Smithsonian Magazine, among others—explores innovative technological approaches to reversing human-made environmental disaster. Her earlier book The Sixth Extinction, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction, surveys the devastating impacts of climate change on flora and fauna and the role that humans play in the possible extinction of millions of species.

President Elliott at podium presenting honorary degree to Elizabeth Kolbert
President Elliott presented an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Elizabeth Kolbert at Commencement (Photo: Matthew Cavanaugh)

A staff writer at The New Yorker since 1999, Kolbert previously worked at The New York Times, where she wrote the Metro Matters column and served as the paper’s Albany bureau chief. Her earlier work includes a three-part series on global warming for The New Yorker, “The Climate of Man,” which won the 2006 National Magazine Award for Public Interest. She is the editor of The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009 and the author of The Prophet of Love: And Other Tales of Power and Deceit and Field Notes from a Catastrophe.

Among many other accolades, Kolbert is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Heinz Award, two National Magazine Awards, the Blake-Dodd Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the 2017 SEAL Environmental Journalism Award. In 2022, she was recognized with the BBVA Foundation’s Biophilia Award for Environmental Communication. She attended Yale University, where she graduated with a B.A. in literature.


Elizabeth Kolbert speaking at a podium

Listen to Elizabeth Kolbert’s talk, “Man in the Anthropocene”

Audio file