The “environmental humanities” names a set of subfields from different academic disciplines, pulling areas of study such as environmental history and environmental philosophy under the same umbrella. But this term also marks an effort to see what happens when scholars from the humanities, social sciences, and sciences talk across disciplines about the environment and environmental problems.
What does it mean to be human in a time of global environmental change? What should environmental ethics look like? How are political, social, and economic structures—and inequities—intertwined with ecological realities? How can cultural and aesthetic forms foster environmental values? How has our understanding of the relationship between culture and nature shaped our conservation efforts? How do our concepts of nature and of environmentalism need to change in response to our current situation? Scholars in the environmental humanities ask and seek to answer questions like these.
The Environmental Humanities at UCLA pursues and discusses these questions through seminars that bring visiting scholars to campus and events that build community among students and faculty at UCLA. During the 2014-15 academic year, funding from the Mellon Foundation allowed us to host the Sawyer Seminar on the Environmental Humanities, a series of nine seminars that brought top scholars in environmental history, ecocriticism, environmental philosophy, anthropology, and geography to campus.