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Environmental Humanities


  • Elizabeth Outka
  • Yvonne Howell

The humanities have a powerful role to play in addressing the environmental issues we face. Science, computation, and technology provide critical information on our changing climate, yet we urgently need the tools offered by the humanities to better identify the problems and to shape new paradigms for the future.  The humanities excel at unsettling entrenched patterns and at envisioning innovative approaches; they offer new ways to tell stories, to visualize and represent the risks we face, and to see how the environment lies at the heart of issues surrounding equity, social justice, ethics, and global politics.   

Colleges and universities are increasingly recognizing the importance of the Environmental Humanities and are building this field into their curriculums.  At UR, interested faculty from various schools and disciplines have already started to develop courses and pursue research in the Environmental Humanities, working with UR’s existing Environmental Studies program to discuss new ways to bring sustainability into our curriculum.  This FLC would advance this work, recruiting a wider range of dedicated faculty interested in discussing and developing these issues on campus. 

The University’s Strategic Plan places sustainability and environmental issues as central to UR’s mission for students, faculty, and staff, and issues surrounding the environment are inextricably connected to issues concerning equity and social justice, two other areas of focus for both the Strategic Plan and Concept 30.  The fifth value in the University’s strategic plan, for example, “stewardship in a changing world,” supports “weav[ing] responsible environmental stewardship into the fabric of the University” through a new sustainability plan, and this FLC would be an important way to advance that goal.  Likewise, both the issues and the curriculum possibilities represented by the Environmental Humanities speak directly to Concept 30’s focus on the four Cs (Conscience, Community, Creativity, and Curriculum).