You have snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, climbed the Andes, swum the Tyrrhenian Sea, and even spelunked a Vermont cave filled with dead bats . . . all to report the story of your career—how humans are rapidly changing Earth’s ecosystems. We pump greenhouse gases into the air, acidify the sea, and move species to habitats unprepared by evolution to absorb them. The result is the largest wave of extinctions since the asteroid hit of sixty-five million years ago that wiped out the dinosaurs and so much else. This would be easy for a busy world not to notice without focused testimony such as yours. The natural systems involved are complex as are the techniques used to study them; your gift is to find and to tell with clarity the stories that make it all real. Your pieces in The New Yorker and your books Field Notes from a Catastrophe and The Sixth Extinction carry a prophetic voice—clear, unflinching, persistent. It is a voice that has gained widening acclaim, from a Pulitzer Prize to an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. We take particular pride that from your distant adventures it is to this small town, surrounded by this natural beauty, that you return to think and to write. For it is not just the story of your career that you are telling, but the story of our lifetime.
I hereby declare you recipient of the honorary degree Doctor of Letters, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining thereto.
June 5, 2016