Line, Circle, Pivot: Narrating the Groundwater Crisis on the High Plains. A talk with Lucas Bessire.

Williams Hall, Room 623

Poster advertising "Lina, Circle, Pivot." talk with Lucas Bessire.

Lucas Bessire is an American writer, filmmaker and anthropologist.  His work focuses on politics, environment and media in the Americas. An avid traveler, Bessire has conducted ethnographic fieldwork across the hemisphere, from the Ayoreo-speaking peoples of Bolivia and Paraguay to western Kansas to Arctic Alaska. Currently, he is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma working on projects in northern Alaska and the Great Plains. His most recent book, Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains, was published by Princeton University Press in 2021.

Event description: The Ogallala aquifer has nourished life on the American Great Plains for millennia. But less than a century of unsustainable irrigation farming has taxed much of the aquifer beyond repair. The imminent depletion of the Ogallala and other aquifers around the world is a defining planetary crisis of our times. In this talk, Lucas Bessire will describe his journey back to western Kansas, where five generations of his family lived as irrigation farmers and ranchers, to try to make sense of this vital resource and its loss. His search for water across the drying High Plains forces a reckoning with the stark realities of industrial agriculture, eroding democratic norms, and surreal interpretations of a looming disaster. How do we tell stories about loss? Join us for an urgent and unsettling meditation on environmental change, as well as a revelatory account of family, complicity, loss, and what it means to find your way back home.

Please register in advance using this form or register at the door. 

Headshot of author Lucas Bessire and cover of his book, Running Out.


Interested in more with Lucas Bessire? The Penn Program in Environmental Humanities invites University of Pennsylvania graduate students to submit a creative nonfiction piece of writing on a topic close to your heart for a chance to have it workshopped with author Lucas Bessire.

Creative Nonfiction Writing Workshop with esteemed author and anthropologist Lucas Bessire!

When: Friday, February 3rd from 11 am to 1:30 pm

Where: Williams Hall, Wolf Humanities Center, Room 623

What: A chance to stretch the boundaries of “academic” genres and write creatively for diverse audiences about a socio-environmental issue or matter of concern that impassions you. To apply, please submit a 250-word creative non-fiction abstract to,, and This abstract can be for poetic, literary, or journalistic modes of writing on your topic of interest or matter of concern. Abstracts due January 19th by 5 pm. Accepted authors will be notified by January 23rd, and 1,000-word pieces from each author will be pre-circulated on January 30th.