April 11, 2008
Lake Baikal, a gargantuan crack in the Siberian plateau, is the world's largest body of fresh water, its deepest and oldest lake, and a cauldron of evolution, home to hundreds of unique creatures, including the world's only freshwater seal. It's also among the most pristine lakes on earth, with a mythical ability to protect itself from the growing human impact-a "perfect," self-cleansing ecosystem. Lake Baikal is a place of sublime beauty, deep history and immense natural power. But at Baikal there are also ominous signs that this perfect piece of nature could yet succumb to the even more powerful forces of human hubris, carelessness and ignorance. Despite its isolation, Baikal is connected to everything else on Earth, and it will need the love and devotion of people around the world to protect it. Though Lake Baikal is the largest and deepest body of fresh water in the world and one of natures most magnificent and singular creations -- it holds one-fifth of the worlds liquid fresh water in a basin more than a mile deep -- it is nearly unknown outside of Russia. Through personal narrative, natural history, environmental science, and cultural studies, the colloquium will explore Lake Baikal's impact on Russian people, and vice versa, as well as vivid descriptions of current environmental issues in Russia and by extension Eastern Europe, Japan, and Alaska.
Peter Thomson is Founding Producer and Senior Editor of NPR's "Living on Earth" and recipient of 19 awards for excellence in broadcast journalism; currently freelance environmental journalist and member of Executive Committee of Society of Environmental Journalists.