What is the human experience, and how does our environment shape it? How do we, as humans, shape our environment?

Students of the Environmental Humanities work to answer these essential questions.

The field of Environmental Humanities is new and evolving, and encourages students to dive deeply into the ways in which humans engage with nature, and are formed by that engagement. It is a still-emerging, cross-disciplinary field of study, involving the exploration of regional and global literary traditions, environmental philosophy, cultural identity, natural sciences, history, economics, political science and more.

Although the field of Environmental Humanism is based on work that originated in the late 20th century, the term itself only evolved in the past decade or so. It is no wonder that many students are unfamiliar with the Environmental Humanities as a possible major, and as a jumping-off point for a lifetime of study, reflection and work. That work may take the form of pursuit of a craft; academic research, teaching or writing; or activism for environmental justice and climate change.

The field of Environmental Humanities is not just the province of Western academics; it embraces the experiences and viewpoints of indigenous, postcolonial and feminist thinkers and others “outside” the traditional academy. It challenges the Western viewpoint that distinguishes between “nature” and “culture,” exploring how many “environmental” issues have forever been bound up in such human pursuits as justice, economics, and politics. Environmental Humanities bring together the academic and social/political spheres in pursuing new areas of inquiry and study.

Environmental Humanities offer a way to synthesize methods employed in a wide range of fields of study to create new ways of addressing environmental problems.

The Environmental Humanities can be a path to climate activism. Owain Jones, a professor of Environmental Humanities in the U.K., sees this field as a way to understand and address climate change.

“The environmental humanities are the traditional humanities––such as philosophy, literature, religion, art, music, history, language studies, cultural geography––conjoined in new interdisciplinary formations…to address the environmental crisis currently engulfing us––its antecedents, current forms and future trajectories and possible responses to it.”

Jones’ definition puts Environmental Humanities at the forefront of the Climate Emergency.

Here at Sterling College, courses for this major can include surveys of regional and global environmental literatures, storytelling, cultural studies, and in-depth explorations of art, writing and philosophy. These studies form a foundation for further examination––through hands-on courses such as Fiber Arts, Pottery, Photography, Reverence for Wood, and Natural History Illustration­­––which immerse students in the creative process by working with local fiber, clay, watercolors, journals, hand-made paper, wood, and other materials.

At Sterling, when you major in Environmental Humanities, you recognize the relevance of creative work in a broader context—and applying that understanding toward the goal of effecting change in the world.

At Sterling, when you major in Environmental Humanities you immerse yourself in the creative process to communicate, express yourself, and effect change while exploring ways in which humanity engages with nature.

At Sterling, you may transform wool into yarn, local clay into pottery, plant pulp into paper, and ideas into poetry and prose. Ultimately, you will fully engage with the natural world and work to interpret, create, and share impressions and ideas with the broader community.

At Sterling, our beautiful, rural Vermont campus is an ideal place to lose yourself as you explore the creative process, find yourself as you discover your voice, and decide on how you will use your voice to advocate for a better understanding of the world and our place in it.

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Filed Under: Academics Blog Environmental Humanities

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