Author Seamus McGraw to discuss climate change at Penn State Scranton

Author Seamus McGraw's headshot

Local author Seamus McGraw will lead a conversation on how to discuss the hot-button issue of climate change in the middle of a cultural cold war on Tuesday, March 31 at Penn State Scranton's Study Learning Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Credit: Penn State

Editor’s note: This event has been canceled. The cancellation is due to Penn State's move to remote instruction beginning March 16.

Penn State Scranton’s Community Events Series will welcome author Seamus McGraw as he presents his new book, “Turning Down the Temperature.” McGraw will explain his new book at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 31, in the Study Learning Center’s Sherbine Lounge.

The event is free and open to the public, and is being held in honor of Earth Day 2020 -- the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. 

Theresa Black, lecturer in biology, heard about McGraw from a colleague at Penn State, University Park -- Pete Buckland, academic programs manager for Penn State’s Sustainability Institute, while she was attending a workshop in preparation for a new interdomain course, Ethics of Climate Change.  

“He was recommended as a potential guest speaker for my course. I have read his book on climate change, “Betting the Farm on a Drought: Stories from the Front Line of Climate Change” and I enjoyed his style of writing,” she said. “Seamus seeks to bridge the gap between the academics and the general public, interviewing a farmer in Illinois, fishermen on the New Jersey coast, and a hunting and fishing guide in Montana. They share their lived experiences with climate change and Seamus ties these stories to the science.” 

During this event, McGraw will discuss the hot-button topic that is climate change and how its impacts effect the cultural cold war. He is the author of a few books, including the critically acclaimed “The End of Country: Dispatches from the Frack Zone," “Betting the Farm on a Drought: Stories from the Front Line of Climate Change,” and “A Thirsty Land: The Making of an American Water Crisis.” 

His latest book, tentatively titled “From a Taller Tower,” an examination of 50 years of gun violence in America, is to be released later this year from the University of Texas Press. 

McGraw’s inspiration for writing about climate change happened about 10 years ago, “when the latest energy boom came to my family farm outside of Tunkhannock, that's when I first began to first write about the changes I was seeing in earnest. In my first book, ‘The End of Country.’ I tried to record how, when we unleashed the Marcellus (shale/gas), we came face to face with the magnitude of the challenges that are bearing down on us, environmentally, yes, but also economically and culturally.” 

He has done countless amounts of research on this subject, as well as interviewing hundreds of scientists, academics, policy makers, and unusual resources, such as farmers, hunters, ranchers, anglers, fishermen and evangelists. 

“These are people who you might imagine are not politically, culturally, even religiously predisposed to believe in anthropomorphic global climate change, but who are dealing in inventive and instructive ways with the consequences of a changing climate, and there are lessons we draw from them that can benefit us all,” McGraw said. “The trick is learning how to talk to each other.” 

Black’s knowledge on climate change stems back to when she worked as an environmental scientist, before she began teaching.

She said climate change became an increasingly important issue in her field, despite her focus being on water quality. She then integrated climate change into several of her courses, including earth science, biology and physical geography. 

“I find that most students are really interested to learn about this subject, especially about its impacts now and in the future. I emphasize the phenomena we see here in northeast PA that result in climate change,” said Black. “I grew up in this area and I like to tell the students how the ground was covered in snow from December to March. We never saw rain in the winter but enjoyed a lot of sledding. We discussed the cause of arctic outbreaks recently, which turned out to be timely when temperatures dropped drastically over the course of one day last week.” 

Black stressed that it is important for students to attend this discussion. "Climate change has been accepted by the scientific community for decades, yet it is still a difficult issue to discuss within the general public. Seamus’s talk, 'Turning Down the Temperature' deals with the complexity of this discussion. He has a knack for finding that middle ground in the conversation, dealing with the tangible and relating to the science.” 

“Ultimately, what I’m talking about is hope. It’s a scarce resource right now, but it is renewable,” said McGraw. 

A father of four, McGraw lives in northeast Pennsylvania with his wife, his dog, and a neighborly bear with boundary issues named Fardels.


The Community Event Series was started last year by Penn State Scranton to engage the local community with the campus and provide a series of interesting and informative lectures, musical performances and cultural events to the community free of charge.


Recent past events include the Martin Luther King Day celebration, “Telling and Understanding Anthracite’s Unique Story" panel discussion, Dr. Phil Mosley’s “Resuming Maurice” book discussion, and an informational presentation on the 2020 Census. 


For more information on this event, contact Black at [email protected] or Dr. Dale Holen at [email protected]