33 Worlds Arising, Worlds in Peril

British Columbia
United States
J. Edward Chamberlin British Columbia

J. Edward Chamberlin is a professor emeritus of English and comparative literature at the University of Toronto. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, was a visiting professor at the University of Michigan, has lectured around the world and has received an honorary doctorate from the University of the West Indies. Read more

Alan Weisman United States

Alan Weisman is the author of several books, including The World Without Us, an international bestseller that was translated into 34 languages. A former contributing editor to the Los Angeles Times Magazine, he is a senior producer for Homelands Productions. His new book, Countdown, is a powerful investigation into humanity’s future. Read more

Host: Kathryn Gretsinger
Thursday, October 24, 2013 - 10:00am - 11:30am
Improv Centre
$17 / $8.50 for school groups

The story of islands, as J. Edward Chamberlin tells it, is also the story of our planet, from the cycles of climate change to seismic upheavals. Chamberlin looks through different lenses—culture, mythology, geography, navigation—to see how islands fit into the human understanding of our existence on earth. Alan Weisman follows his bestselling book The World Without Us with Countdown, a look at the future of humankind in the face of overpopulation. He visited a wide range of cultures, religions, tribes and political systems to learn if there’s a chance to return the earth’s population to levels the planet can sustain. There’ll be plenty of opportunity for questions as you meet two writers who have given serious thought to questions of whether, and how, we can survive here on earth.

Suitable for grades 10–12 and adults

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View the study guide for this event.

Worlds Arising, Worlds in Peril


J. Edward Chamberlin, Island: How Islands Transform the World
Alan Weisman, Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth

Curriculum Connections:

  • Language Arts: non-fiction
  • Science: environmental stewardship
  • Social studies: global community, geography and ethics


  • Start a class discussion about what the students learned from the event. What did the authors say that was particularly interesting? How has this informed their knowledge on human progress, and on the environment? Did they agree with everything that was said?
  • Give each student a research assignment: Split the class into four groups—culture, mythology, geography, and navigation. Ask students to do some in-depth research on a specific subject that relates to their general group topic. Students in each group should aim to research something different. The subject that they choose should be a key turning point in human history. For example, one might choose to focus on how the invention of the telescope if they have been sorted into the navigation group. In their research, students should ask themselves the five W’s of the subject: Who, what, when, where, why? They should also examine this subject’s implication on human civilization, and why it is significant.
  • Students will deliver a short 5-minute presentation on their research subjects. They will answer any questions other students may have and facilitate a class discussion with two prepared discussion questions.