What role can the humanities play in pursuing environmental safety and justice? How can they inform scientific inquiry? The value of the humanities in shaping environmental policy and practice has in some cases been drawn into question, especially in comparison to the natural sciences. Climate scientists are certainly more equipped to explain the material causes of global warming as they relate to rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, for instance.
However, a focus on these material or “natural” causes alone does little to address the human practices, social relations, and cultural ideals that contribute to climatic warming—subjects that the humanities can illuminate. Neither the humanities and social sciences nor the natural sciences taken separately can offer solutions to environmental problems like anthropogenic climate change. The material, or natural, and the human are inseparable. The Environmental Humanities graduate research cluster serves as a vehicle for crossover and collaboration, drawing on student expertise in environmental history, political ecology, cultural geography and anthropology, eco-criticism, and the natural sciences.