Alan Weisman: It Started With Birds

Alan Weisman's reports from around the world have appeared in Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Orion, Wilson Quarterly, Vanity Fair, Mother Jones, Discover, Audubon, Condé Nast Traveler, and in many anthologies, including Best American Science Writing 2006.  His most recent book, The World Without Us, a bestseller translated into 30 languages, was named the Best Nonfiction Book of 2007 by both Time Magazine and Entertainment Weekly, the #1 Nonfiction Audiobook of 2007 by iTunes; a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Nonfiction, for the Orion Prize, and a Book Sense 2008 Honor Book.

His previous books include An Echo In My Blood; Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World (10th anniversary edition available from Chelsea Green); and La Frontera: The United States Border With Mexico. He has also written the introduction for The World We Have by Thich Nhat Hanh, available this fall from Parallax Press.  A senior producer for Homelands Productions, Weisman’s documentaries have aired on National Public Radio, Public Radio International, and American Public Media.  Each spring, he leads an annual field program in international journalism at the University of Arizona, where he is Laureate Associate Professor in Journalism and Latin American Studies.  He and his wife, sculptor Beckie Kravetz, live in western Massachusetts.

  • Transcript


Alan Weisman: My name is Alan Weisman. I am the author of “The World Without Us.” I am a journalist, I have written for many major magazines, public radio and I have written several other books. I born was in Minneapolis, I grew up outside of town on the edge of what today is elegantly termed as wetland, back then we called it the swamp. I spent much of my boyhood in that, though it was a combination of woodland, marshlands, filled with animals, filled with birds and I was really festinated by them. I still have the first book I ever bought, it was Audubon’s “Guide to Eastern Birds” and I grew up thinking, I was going to be a naturalist or scientist and a that lasted until eight grade when, there was the Science teacher, who hated me and the English teacher who loved me, you know how that goes. Well, I went to college really with no idea of what I wanted to do with my life whatsoever. I went to college, because I was supposed to go to college. That was mandate that came down from on high in my family. I had no professional aspirations, whatsoever other than I liked to read. So, I became a English major, because I got grades for doing whatever I was already doing, which is reading these works of literature and ultimately, in my senior year in college, I sort of went into a panic, wondering what to do and all of my roommates were applying to law school, so I just applied thinking that maybe I would do that, and it was the time of great ferment and torment in the United States, because of the Vietnam War, so radical lawyers were becoming celebrities, and they were supposedly helping to reshape our country. So, I went to law school at the University California at Berkeley. That lasted almost an entire semester, by Thanksgiving I was long gone, I was not cut out to be a lawyer, but the only thing that I was really any good at, was legal writing and I realized that words really were my future, and I decided to become a journalist because, journalists often times, people like myself who can't decide what you really want to do with your life, so journalism will get you poke you nose into what everybody else is doing and at least for few moment share that with them and that's pretty much been what’s happened ever since.


Recorded on: 2/5/08