In the environmental humanities, we bridge the traditional divide between the sciences and humanities to look holistically at the past and present’s environmental problems. We investigate not only historical and ecological facts but also the underlying human factors that drive collective behaviors and beliefs. We also look at the stories we tell—and write our own—knowing that facts alone will not motivate the change our world needs. We need to evolve a new human narrative as well.
The environmental humanities explore cultural productions, like literature, art, film and media, as well as history and philosophy, to understand the ways nature and the environment are referenced and depicted. Through this examination, environmental humanities scholars can trace and track how attitudes about nature have shifted over time as well as across geography, religions and knowledge systems.
Questions we ask in the environmental humanities include: how can we account for human beliefs and culture when creating climate-change solutions? How are questions of social justice entangled with environmental issues? How do various cultures around the globe relate to the natural world and the place humans have in it? What role might eco-documentaries play in chronicling and challenging reliance on fossil fuels or nuclear power?
At UCI, our research in the environmental humanities is deep, with scholars diving beneath the surface to help understand today’s challenges; radical, with scholars getting to the roots of complex problems; creative, with scholars imagining new approaches and drawing lessons from nature; and engaged, with scholars encouraging new ways of thinking and taking action.
In the humanities, our scholars work from a toolbox that includes critical analysis, cultural attunement, storytelling, historical context, and deep interpretation of human beliefs and motivations. These tools are vital to solving the dynamic and multifaceted environmental issues of today. Sometimes, it’s as simple as being the voice at the table to ask, “Good for whom?” and “At whose expense?”
What follows is a multimedia tour of the multidisciplinary cadre of UCI Humanities scholars tackling environmental humanities research today.
Dean, UCI School of Humanities