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Lucas Bessire and William DeBuys
August 24, 2021 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm PDT
Anthropologist Lucas Bessire and novelist and conservationist William DeBuys join us for a virtual event about their new books, Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains (Princeton UP) and The Trail to Kanjiroba: Rediscovering Earth in an Age of Loss (Seven Stories Press). The two will discuss the increasingly imperiled water supply in the western U.S. and ways to confront the difficult challenges of the climate emergency.
This event will be streamed on our Crowdcast channel.
About Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains
“Bessire’s Running Out masterfully shifts among scales and genres and in doing so lets the personal, the historic, and the geologic reveal their intimacies and competing urgencies. A beautiful and unusual book, and wholly original.” –Rivka Galchen, author of Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch
The Ogallala aquifer has nourished life on the American Great Plains for millennia. But less than a century of unsustainable irrigation farming has taxed much of the aquifer beyond repair. The imminent depletion of the Ogallala and other aquifers around the world is a defining planetary crisis of our times. Running Out offers a uniquely personal account of aquifer depletion and the deeper layers through which it gains meaning and force.
Anthropologist Lucas Bessire journeyed back to western Kansas, where five generations of his family lived as irrigation farmers and ranchers, to try to make sense of this vital resource and its loss. His search for water across the drying High Plains brings the reader face to face with the stark realities of industrial agriculture, eroding democratic norms, and surreal interpretations of a looming disaster. Yet the destination is far from predictable, as the book seeks to move beyond the words and genres through which destruction is often known. Instead, this journey into the morass of eradication offers a series of unexpected discoveries about what it means to inherit the troubled legacies of the past and how we can take responsibility for a more inclusive, sustainable future.
An urgent and unsettling meditation on environmental change, Running Out is a revelatory account of family, complicity, loss, and what it means to find your way back home.
About The Trail to Kanjiroba: Rediscovering Earth in an Age of Loss
“The Trail to Kanjiroba is a transformative path on the page by one of America’s most eloquent writers. Bill deBuys has written a walking prayer about beauty, hope, and longing in the service of human dignity and a living planet. Though set in Nepal in the high altitude grace of Dolpo, this is a spiritual pilgrimage contemplating the journey from grief toward love. Hands pressed together, I hold these words close and bow.”–Terry Tempest Williams
In 2016 and 2018 acclaimed author and conservationist William deBuys joined extended medical expeditions into Upper Dolpo, a remote, ethnically Tibetan region of northwestern Nepal, to provide basic medical services to the residents of the region. Having written about climate change and species extinction, deBuys went on those journeys seeking solace. He needed to find a constructive way of living with the discouraging implications of what he had learned in recent years about the diminishing chances of reversing the damage humans have done to Earth–a way of holding onto hope in the face of devastating loss. As deBuys describes these journeys through one of the earth’s most remote regions, his writing celebrates the staggering natural beauty and biodiversity he finds there, and gives his readers a history lesson of two scientific discoveries–evolution and plate tectonics–that forever changed sapiens’ understanding of our planet. Written in a lush and nuanced style evocative of Paul Theroux or Peter Matthiessen, The Trail to Kanjiroba offers a surprising and revitalizing new way to think about Earthcare, one that may enable us to continue the difficult work that needs to be done.
About the authors
William deBuys is the author of ten books, including The Last Unicorn, one of Christian Science Monitor’s 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2015; River of Traps, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a Pulitzer Prize nonfiction finalist; The Walk (an excerpt of which won a Pushcart Prize in 2008); and A Great Aridness. In 2008-2009 he was a Guggenheim Fellow. He lives in New Mexico.
Lucas Bessire is associate professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma and the author of Behold the Black Caiman: A Chronicle of Ayoreo Life.