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Chicago Humanities Festival

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The programs in this year's Chicago Humanities Festival are yoked together under the sober rubric "The Climate of Concern" and are intended to allow for a wide-ranging examination of global warming, ecological disasters, overpopulation, and the just generally problematic interface of civilization and the natural world. Given such grim material, the schedule is surprisingly diverse, and even lighthearted in spots. Of course there are heavy hitters like economist Amartya Sen and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert (Field Notes From a Catastrophe). Sure, there seem to be a depressing number of Katrina-related panels--not to mention an entire lecture series titled "Apocalypse Then: A History of the End of the World." And the horrors of industrial agriculture are accorded due attention. But a festival that makes room for a screening of Starship Troopers can't be all doom and gloom. Fantasy novelist Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials) appears on two programs, one for grown-ups and one for kids; the Onion offers a take on the festival-affiliated Festival of Maps; and journalist Adrian Nicole LeBlanc--whose 2003 Random Family is a breathtakingly thorough look at a loose-knit South Bronx family--delivers findings from her recent study of stand-up comedians and black humor. And is it wrong to see the comic potential of a panel on "The Green City of the Future" hosted by Mayor Daley himself? a Sat 10/27-Sun 11/11, multiple venues; see chfestival.org for more.- --Martha Bayne

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