The Environmental Humanities are a scholarly pursuit concerned with the interpretation of human records (library and archival sources), artistic documents (literature, art works, films, musical scores, etc.), forms of cultural expression (religious rituals, performances etc.), and philosophical ideas, concepts, and values that focus on nature and the environment including, but not exclusively devoted to, readings of works in the contact zone between environment and people. We provide historical perspectives on the natural and social sciences, assist in the interpretation of scientific results, clarify societal values, address ethical problems that may arise with new technologies, facilitate implementation of public programs, break down barriers between the humanities and the sciences, and foster the values needed to build a sustainable society and the new habits needed for environmental citizenship.
One concern central to the Environmental Humanities is the conceptualization of the agency of nature and the environment without reducing the meaning of these records, documents, forms of cultural expression, and philosophical ideas and values to the question of how they affect people and society or culture. The Environmental Humanities carry forward the agenda of the humanities in general in the form of philological critique, aesthetic analysis, ethical reasoning, and the search for historical evidence. At the same time, they give this tradition a transformative agenda that embraces environmental engagement and advocacy, the power to make a difference, and build a sustainable future in the Anthropocene, our geological era in which humankind and the environment are intricately intertwined.
The Environmental Humanities recognize that this can only be accomplished across disciplines capitalizing on profound synergies and affinities between the different humanities fields and adjacent disciplines such as the arts or the humanistic social sciences that share our stance on environmental advocacy. To that end, the Environmental Humanities Research Cluster is organizing a series of events during 2014-2015 that endeavor to further the interdisciplinary dialogue initiated on campus with the “Future of the Environmental Humanities” conference in November 2013.