Beyond Despair: A Focus on Environmental Humanities

Bird in woman hands outdoors on nature.

Confronting contemporary challenges is impossible unless we understand the ways that humans interact with their environments and the repercussions those interactions have both locally and globally.

In the spring of 2019, the National Humanities Center focused significant attention on the work humanists are doing to contextualize and address environmental concerns. In public conversations, podcasts, and panel discussions, we highlighted how scholars from across disciplines are addressing environmental topics situated in places around the world—all of them unified, however, by a shared interest in the ways that humans interact with their environments and the repercussions those interactions have both locally and globally.

Beyond Despair: An Environmental Call for Art

An exhibit of work by regional artists, curated by Professor Joshua White from Appalachian State University, showcased the ways art can encourage deeper meditation on our relationships with nature and help transform a sense of loss into an impulse toward action.

Environmental Humanities at the Crossroads of Climate Change

This scholarly roundtable, featuring Center Fellows in conversation with NHC President and Director Robert Newman, explored the important role for humanists in ongoing public discourse about climate change.

Touching on topics such as environmental justice and indigenous peoples, the economic history and lasting legacies of deforestation in Latin America, and the shift in demand for fossil fuels to support global military conflicts, these scholars discussed how the human element must be accounted for as we struggle to shape climate policies for the twenty-first century.

Participants in this conversation included Joni Adamson (Arizona State University), Tait Keller (Rhodes College), and Shawn Van Ausdal (Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá).

Beyond Despair: Theory and Practice in Environmental Humanities

In early April, the Center hosted an international gathering, entitled “Beyond Despair: Theory and Practice in Environmental Humanities” as the culmination of this initiative. This three-day event, featuring scholars, artists, policy makers, teachers, journalists, legal experts, and scientists, explored the ways the humanities may be enlisted to help address climate change and environmental degradation.

Keynote by Subhankar Banerjee

Land, Water, Food, and Sustainability

Carbon Offsets

Intergenerational Justice

Beyond Despair: Next Steps

Teaching the Environment in East Asia

Teaching the Environment

Data Rescue for the Environment

Policy and Regulation

Beyond Despair: Environmental Humanities Awareness

This Humanities Moments exhibit gathered contributions which illuminate the intersecting lines of inquiry at the heart of environmental humanities. How do the humanities shape the way we conceptualize the environment? How does the environment shape the way we see the humanities? In the midst of environmental crises, how can the humanities help us find paths forward and move beyond despair?

Thanks to Our Sponsors

These events have been made possible with the generous support of RTI International, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, TUCASI, North Carolina Humanities Council, Sally and Russell Robinson, and Duke University Press.