The new journal Environmental Humanities is now online.
In “Thinking through the Environment, Unsettling the Humanities,” the editors–Deborah Bird Rose et al.–say this about their project:
“Welcome to the first volume of this new, international, open-access journal. Environmental Humanities aims to support and further a wide range of conversations on environmental issues in this time of growing awareness of the ecological and social challenges facing all life on earth. The field of environmental humanities is growing rapidly, both in research and teaching. In just the past few years, a number of research centres and undergraduate and postgraduate programs have emerged at universities all around the world: in the USA, the UK, Scandinavia, Taiwan and Australia, to name just a few places. In each area, this broad domain of scholarship is being taken up and developed in a distinct way. In general, however, the environmental humanities can be understood to be a wide ranging response to the environmental challenges of our time. Drawing on humanities and social science disciplines that have brought qualitative analysis to bear on environmental issues, the environmental humanities engages with fundamental questions of meaning, value, responsibility and purpose in a time of rapid, and escalating, change.”
Below is a video featuring Jane McGonigal, game theorist and author of Reality Is Broken, a book about the use of games as heuristic devices for solving problems. Here, she talks about the way she overcame the despair that followed a serious head injury. Essentially, she made her recovery into a game, in which she deployed strategies, recruited allies, and told herself a story that enabled her recovery.
It seems to me that the environmental humanities, especially those of us who work in rhetoric, have a lot to learn from this approach. As many have noted, American environmental rhetoric has often depended on fear as a motivating force. McGonigal details a technique that could be used en masse to mobilize hope. That’s really important, especially at the interface between scholarship and activism.
This is a picture of the damage in my neighborhood in Highland Park, NJ. We were struck by sustained hurricane-force winds for several hours, and lost power for days and, in some cases, weeks, but we were spared major structural damage, otherwise.
It’s hard not to read this picture as an allegory of Sandy’s psychic impact on the region. Thanks for John Paxton for the photo.
Those of us who address sustainability, resilience, petroculture, infrastructure, and other issues related to climate disruption may be unaware that Mayor Bloomberg commissioned a series of reports on these topics well before Sandy hit. One of the most important reports, “PlaNYC: A Greener, Greater New York,” can be accessed here.
This is the way the site describes the plan:
“Released in 2007, PlaNYC was an unprecedented effort undertaken by Mayor Bloomberg to prepare the city for one million more residents, strengthen our economy, combat climate change, and enhance the quality of life for all New Yorkers. The Plan brought together over 25 City agencies to work toward the vision of a greener, greater New York. Since then, we have made significant progress towards our long-term goals.
In just four years we’ve built hundreds of acres of new parkland while improving our existing parks. We’ve created or preserved more than 64,000 units of housing. We’ve built whole new neighborhoods with access to transit. We’ve provided New Yorkers with more transportation options. We’ve enacted the most ambitious laws of any city in the country to make existing buildings more energy-efficient. And we’ve reduced our greenhouse gas emissions 13% below 2005 levels. Over 97% of the 127 initiatives in PlaNYC were launched within one-year of its release and almost two-thirds of its 2009 milestones were achieved or mostly achieved.
The updated plan has 132 initiatives and more than 400 specific milestones for December 31, 2013.“
Community farms took a hit from the storm, but this community farm in Brooklyn is rebuilding. This video is worth sharing with students because urban farming in New York is less well known than it should be, and the spirit shown by the volunteers, including students, is heartening.
CHANGING NATURE: MIGRATIONS, ENERGIES, LIMITS
The Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE)
Tenth Biennial Conference, May 28-June 1, 2013.
University of Kansas, Lawrence
The Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) invites proposals for its Tenth Biennial Conference, to be held May 28th through June 1st, 2013, at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. The decennial conference theme is intended to reflect some of the mostengaging current conversations within the environmental humanities and across disciplines, and to link those discussions to the transnational nexus of energy, labor, borders, and human and nonhuman environments that are so fundamentally “changing nature,” and with it the widely varied kinds of environmental critique we practice, art we make, and politics we advocate. Migrations–of humans, of non-human creatures, of “invasive species,” of industrial toxins across aquifers and cellular membranes, of disease across species and nations, of transgenic pollen and GM fish-have changed the meanings of place, bodies, nations, and have lent new urgency to the old adage that “everything is connected to everything.” Energies–fossil, renewable, human, spiritual, aesthetic, organic-radically empower our species for good and for ill, and make our individual and collective choices into the Anthropocene. And those choices are profoundly about Limits on resources, climate, soil, and water; about voluntary and involuntary curbs on individual and collective consumption and waste; about the often porous and often violently marked borders of empire, class, race, and gender.
For the full CFP and more information, click here.
This op-ed was published in the New York Times today. In “Learning to Bounce Back,” Andrew Zolli argues that we need to think sustainability differently, by incorporating the idea of civilizational “resilience,” the ability to anticipate, resist, and recover from environmental trauma.
Writing in central New Jersey less than a week after landfall, I can only agree. The northern Jersey shore is, literally, a disaster area. Monmouth County, where I grew up, is entirely in the dark and cold. Atlantic City spent days under water. The people of Staten Island had to beg, on television, for relief, even as they pulled bodies out of the marshes. Hundreds of thousands in the Hudson Valley and Long Island remain in blackout. The subways are flooded. The bridges and rails of the NJTransit’s North Jersey Coastline were swept into the sea. Police guard the rest stops on the NJ Turnpike and Parkway to curb the fights breaking out over gasoline. Residents of the Lower East Side had to dumpster-dive for food.
It’s chapter one of the Zombie Apocalypse, because the undead are in charge of infrastructure and climate policy.
At the height of the storm, as hurricane-force winds tore through my neighborhood, I stood on my porch searching the sky. I thought I saw lightning in the clouds. It was the transformers in the local power grid exploding, again and again, for over half an hour.
Resilience sounds like a good idea right about now. Those of us who teach the environmental humanities should consider teaching it to our students.