The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

April 18, 2006

McKibben, Mills To Speak At UI Conference On The Wild

Environmental writers Bill McKibben and Stephanie Mills will present keynote lectures as part of the Second Iowa Conference on the Wild, which runs Monday and Tuesday, April 24-25 on the University of Iowa campus.

The conference, whose theme is "Live Well, Live Wild: A Community Concourse on Undomesticating and Rewilding," will take place in the Iowa Memorial Union's Richey Ballroom and is free and open to the public. No registration is required and meals are the responsibility of conference attendees.

McKibben, author of "The End of Nature" and most recently "Wandering Home," will give his keynote address, "Sadness, Hope: Writing through the Crisis of Our Times," from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Monday, April 24. And Mills, author of "Epicurean Simplicity" and "In Service of the Wild," will give the keynote address "What Would Aldo Do?" from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 25.

Although the McKibben and Mills keynotes will be highlights, the thrust of the conference is on audience discussion. In five sessions, discussion leaders hailing from the state and local region will lead attendees in exploring these questions: "What is Wildness?", "How Have We Moved Away from the Wild and What Harm Has that Caused?", "Where Does the Wild Still Exist Now?", "How Can We 'Rewild'?" and "What Would a 'Wilder Iowa' Look Like?"

Other activities include a campus prairie walk and readings of selections from the Wild Iowa Essay Project. A complete schedule and other information may be found online at

The conference is a linchpin of a larger effort initiated by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation's Agrestal Fund to engage Iowans in an ongoing conversation about the wild in Iowa through partnership with educational institutions and nonprofit organizations throughout the state.

Partners include the INHF's Agrestal Fund, the UI's Iowa Project on Place Studies, Midland Roots Regional Culture Initiative, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, The Standing By Words Center, The Ice Cube Press, The Leopold Heritage Group, the UI Year of Public Engagement, the UI Press, and Humanities Iowa.

Organizer Thomas Dean, special assistant to the UI president, founder of the Iowa Project on Place Studies and an adjunct assistant professor of literature, science and the arts, said the conference is intended to inspire attendees to take actions in their own lives that promote wildness.

"We want attendees to leave with a sense of hope and a set of ideas and actions that they will be excited to implement as we seek to 'rewild,'" Dean said. "At the same time, we must confront our individual and shared attitudes and actions that separate us from the wild and that harm or destroy it. In essence, we must confront our domestication: the ways that we have exerted control over the wild - our own wild natures as well as the outside natural world - through the way we build and expand towns and road systems, participate in an industrial food system and alter nature for our own purposes.

"Through a combination of confronting our failures and realizing our possibilities, we hope conference attendees will come away from the program ready and excited to embrace change," he added. "In addition to our local leaders guiding us through discussion, Bill McKibben and Stephanie Mills will also provide great inspiration and insight."

McKibben is a former staff writer for The New Yorker and is currently scholar-in-residence in environmental studies at Middlebury College in Vermont. His books include "Wandering Home," "Hundred Dollar Holiday," "Maybe One," "The End of Nature," "The Age of Missing Information" and "Hope, Human and Wild." "The End of Nature," published in 1989, sounded one of the earliest alarms about global warming; the decade and a half of science since has proved his prescience. In "Maybe One," he took on one of the most controversial of environmental problems -- population. McKibben is a frequent contributor to a wide variety of publications, including The New York Review of Books, Outside, and The New York Times.

Mills' most recent book is "Epicurean Simplicity," an account of living simply inspired by "classical sources of pleasure-good food, good health, good friends, and particularly the endless delights of the natural world. Her musings about the life she desires -- and the life she has created -- ultimately led her to the third-century Greek philosopher Epicurus, whose philosophy was premised on the trustworthiness of the senses, a philosophy that Mills wholeheartedly embraces. While later centuries have come to associate Epicurus' name with hedonism, Mills discovered that he extolled simplicity and prudence as the surest means to pleasure, and his thinking offers an important philosophical touchstone for the book. A prolific writer and noted commentator on ecology and social change, Mills has written numerous books, including "Whatever Happened to Ecology?", "In Service of the Wild", and "Turning Away from Technology." She currently lives in northern Michigan.

For more information, contact Thomas Dean at 319-335-1995, or

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Stephen J. Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,; Program: Thomas Dean, 319-335-1995,