Environmental reporter gives audience glimpse of world in 2044


Justin Gillis, New York Times reporter, talked about the issue of sustainability Tuesday night in a filled Forum Hall. His lecture, titled “2044: What Will It Really Be Like?” was co-sponsored by KSBN and K-State First in conjunction with the New York Times in the Classroom program. The lecture is part of a series that connects with this year’s common book “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline, a dystopian novel that offers a unique perspective on the role of climate change in the future.

“We wanted to have a good variety of offerings to go with the book, and the topic is a good compliment to the book,” Tara Coleman, associate professor at Hale Library, said.

Prior to Gillis’ discussion, students who attended were interested in the intersection of the book with environmental and sustainability issues.

“I’m interested to see what he brings to the sustainability discussion,” said Mallory Howard, junior in open option. “It’s important to talk about, and it will be interesting to see what kinds of applications to sustainability he talks about.”

The talk featured the book by discussing what may actually be going on in the years that the book takes place, 2044-2045. Gillis, an environmental science writer for the New York Times, said the book got it wrong in one important area. Cline mentions that in the fictional future world of “Ready Player One” that there isn’t enough fossil fuel, while Gillis said that in 2044 there will be too much.

Regarding the year 2044 more generally, Gillis discussed several different things that could happen, including the prediction that by 2044 the Artic Sea ice caps will be almost gone or completely gone. He talked about how climate change will affect humanity, changing social order and affecting animal populations. Gillis said that while the majority of society may understand that there is a problem, they don’t understand the urgency to make a change.

“Climate change is a controversial topic and hearing experts from different sides is valuable,” Coleman said.

However, Gillis did end the lecture talking about hope for the future. He said society needs to educate itself on the issue of sustainability and then take large scale actions to help counteract the effects of climate change. This large-scale effort requires citizens to raise their voices and be willing to spend time making a difference.

“I thought it was really good,” said Brittney Houck, freshman in biology.
“It educated the population that was here, and hopefully motivates people to pick up some of these practices,”

The lecture ended with a question and answer session in which the audience asked questions concerning coal use, recycling, and efforts being taken to be a part of sustainability here at K-State.

“One of my favorite parts of lectures are the questions students ask,” Coleman said. “They are so inquisitive and come with different perspectives.”

Gillis also discussed how journalism intersects with the topic of sustainability. He mentioned that many journalists don’t understand the topic and many news organizations don’t have the budget to devote to climate. He noted that the topic of climate is not an easy subject and that changing these problems in the journalistic setting has to start with education of current journalism students. Then they can cover the topic with confidence.

“I was covering genetics and biotech stuff with followship at MIT and all anyone on campus could talk about was climate control, and I was bonking myself on the head,” Gillis said. “This was the biggest problem out there and no one was talking about it.”