“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” —Plutarch
“The Environmental Studies program benefits immensely from its ties to the University’s English department. Though Environmental Studies is popularly understood as social and natural science-based, scholars of the Humanities have made key contributions to our collective understanding of humanity’s relationship to the environment.” —University of Oregon, CAS Environmental Studies Program
Raising awareness about environmental challenges and sustainable food systems depends, at least partly, on our ability to diversify and integrate our message. As it happens, the sustainability movement has broad application to the humanities. This has given rise to, among other sub-genres, Environmental Literature (e.g., green romanticism, environmental apocalypse, environmental nonfiction), Environmental Sciences (e.g., Animals, Science, and Society; People and Plants: Feast or Famine; Soils and Wetlands); and Social Sciences (e.g., Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy; Environmental Communication, Cultural Geography).
The interdisciplinary approach of Environmental Humanities elevates our understanding as surely as nature diversifies her bounty to promote life. Climate change and farming, for example, illuminated by the insight fiction offers, can lead to innovation, reform, reassessment, and overhaul of how and why we do things. Ethical and personal responsibility emerge as valuable attributes against the backdrop of a world in which they seem to be adrift.
Environmental Literature is perched at the crossroads of Environmental Nonfiction and Literature. A relatively new genre, it provides hope, inspiration, sensibility, and new ways of understanding and interpreting art. What was it Einstein said about imagination? “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
The value of a classic is, of course, its capacity for reinterpretation; if there’s one thing we humans are particularly good at, it’s the art of the remix. “The house of fiction,” wrote Henry James, “is one of many dissimilar windows through which many pairs of eyes watch the same show but see many different things.”