When thinking of pollution or climate change, you may not immediately see the relevance of the Humanities to these problems. You may wonder what literature, history, or art have to do with the melting of the ice caps or the destruction of rain forests. And yet, the question of how we interact with our natural environment is as much a problem of the imagination as it is of rising CO2-levels. Our cultural modes of imagining the relations between humans and the environment impact our ways of interacting with planet earth. Scholars in the Humanities possess key tools to explore past and present entanglements of nature and culture. Literary texts, for example, shape alternative ways of imagining our interactions with the environment. History helps us understand how the Dutch found ways of coping with frequent flooding in the Renaissance. Thought-provoking artworks and speculative design open up alternative ways of envisaging the future of our planet and philosophy can help us rethink the Cartesian divide between rational humans and mechanical animals.
Bringing together students, scholars, and members of the general public interested in humanities perspectives on the environment, the new Environmental Humanities Center at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam aims to foster an exchange of ideas. Grounded in the realization that today’s environmental crisis calls for an interdisciplinary approach, we wish to stimulate conversations among the humanities and the natural and social sciences.