A sustainable and prosperous future requires combined action
across both science and the humanities.
We are humanities professionals who study the philosophical and ethical questions that arise from our relationship to the world around us. We aim to encourage greater transparency in the value frameworks of organizations and industries whose work involves human interactions with other species, environments or natural processes. We can assist in applying critical thinking from the environmental humanities to science, innovation, and policy. We ask organizations and policy makers to consider how the values that shape their work have emerged and whether they are adequate. We also offer a supportive role in deliberating these values and their rationale. We aim to broaden and deepen the debate on the human relationship to nature and to constructively evaluate pre-existing paradigms.
WHAT ARE THE ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES?
The Environmental Humanities is a space for experimental, interdisciplinary, and engaged scholarship. At its core, the field is an effort to bring the insights and approaches of the humanities into conversation around some of the most pressing challenges of our day, from climate change and mass extinction, to urbanisation and extraction. It is a field grounded in the insistence that these ‘environmental’ challenges are also inherently social and cultural, and as such they require understandings and responses that take the complexity of human life as seriously as they do the complexity of ecological, geophysical, and climatic systems. In this way, work in the environmental humanities has sought to foreground human diversity—modes of meaning-making, of valuing, of exposure and vulnerability—to explore how we might move forward in ways that are not only sustainable, but also creative, inclusive, just, and genuinely life-enhancing.
WHY ARE THE HUMANITIES IMPORTANT?
We are living in times of unprecedented challenges arising from human pressures on the Earth, its systems and other life-forms. Today, human societies are playing catch up with the consequences of the First and Second Industrial Revolutions. Discussions on climate change, plastics, and pollution, are grounded in repairing damage already done. Now we are on the brink of the Fourth Industrial revolution, deriving from innovations across engineering and the life sciences. This revolution brings us new developments like gene-editing, synthetic biology, and gene drives. What we once did by manipulating manufacturing processes, we can now achieve by manipulating the fundamental mechanisms of life. But while science can tell us how something happens, it can’t guide us in why we might value this knowledge. We need the humanities to help inform questions of “why?” and “should we?” in a creative and inclusive way. The humanities help us define a settlement, and to create the concepts, that take us beyond the division between facts and values, and between the sciences and the humanities.