An important focus of Orville Schell’s work is the Himalayan glaciers that are the source of water for almost every major river system in Asia and the fresh water supply for billions. Using the visual documentation of filmmaker and mountaineer David Breashears, Schell examined the increased glacier melt rate and discussed the far-reaching consequences for Asia and the rest of the world.
2010 - 2011 Season
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While best known as one of the country’s most well-informed and thoughtful observers on China, Orville Schell has also been a ship-hand, a war correspondent in Indochina, a rancher, a journalist reporting for such magazines as The New York Times Magazine, Harpers, The New Yorker, TIME, Wired, and Foreign Affairs. He has been a contributor on China for PBS, NBC, and CBS, where a 60 Minutes program of his won an Emmy. He has also served as a correspondent for several PBS/Frontline documentaries on China and Tibet and covered the war in Iraq for The New York Review of Books.
Until recently, Schell served as Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley. While he remains on the UC Berkeley faculty as Professor Emeritus, he is now Director of the Asia Society’s newly established Center on US-China Relations in New York City. In this capacity, he leads new programs on the environment, the media and foreign policy in an effort promote more constructive dialogue between key Chinese and American leaders. He is also a Fellow at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University.
Schell serves on the boards of the Climate Policy Institute and Current TV and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His written work includes some fifteen books, ten of them about China, including Virtual Tibet, Mandate of Heaven and Discos and Democracy, as well as the five-volume China Reader. He is currently working on issues relating to the environment, politics, and economic reform in China.
His lecture topics include: “How sustainable is the China boom?”; “What is the future of Tibet?”; “China: The Environment and Climate Change”; and “Is the American media letting us down?”
Schell has been honored with fellowships from the Alicia Patterson Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Freedom Forum at Columbia University. He has also received numerous honors, including the Overseas Press Club of America Award, a Page One Award, and, most recently, the Shorenstein Journalism Award from Stanford and Harvard Universities for the best coverage of Asia.
Schell, who has an active interest in photography, has also written the opening essays for such books as Jack Birns’ Assignment Shanghai, James Whitlow Delano’s Empire: Impressions from China, and Sebastiao Salgado’s Sahel: The End of The Road. Schell is currently working on a book on Chinese history for the Modern Library at Random House.
“Mr. Schell’s blend of graceful analysis and unobtrusive firsthand reporting… skillfully captures the improbable, even surreal, air of theater that pervades much of contemporary China.”- The New York Times Book Review
“Orville Schell has for more than 30 years been widely admired for his original and resourceful journalism, especially his nine books and many in-depth reports for The New Yorker and other publications about China.”— The San Francisco Examiner