On Friday 4 November, the Environmental Humanities Center was officially launched at a festive opening event. Gert-Jan Burgers, director of the interdisciplinary research institute CLUE+, opened the Center by tying a ceremonious knot. The act of tying together rather than cutting through a ribbon symbolizes the Environmental Humanities Centers’ commitment to connecting various disciplines and academic as well as non-academic communities in achieving its aims.
Libby Robin, who gave an inspiring keynote lecture on ‘Environmental Humanities in Practice’, is the embodiment of the kinds of connections the Center seeks to make possible. She is a professor at the interdisciplinary Fenner School of Environment and Society at Australian National University in Canberra. Also, she is affiliated professor at Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, in the KTH Environmental Humanities Lab and the Rachel Carson Center in Münich. Moreover, she works closely together with local communities in Canberra as well as with the National Museum of Australia. In her lecture, she focused not only on the contribution the environnmental humanities can make to understanding our relations to the environment and comprehending the Anthropocene, she also gave many inspiring examples of the ways environmental humanities can cooperate with museums, artists, writers, natural scientists, policy-makers and the local community.
Libby Robin’s creative and open-minded approach to the work the environmental humanities can do also showed itself during a morning excursion to the Oostvaardersplassen. This rewilding project, which is almost on the doorstep of our university, was one of the examples she gave in her lecture of local initiatives that the Center could engage with in its collaboration with nearby communities. During our conversations with the site manager and the state forester, we became aware how this project, which aims to create a ‘natural wilderness,’ works with the (cultural) perceptions of the general public as well as with ecological knowledge every day.
At the launch reception, we had inspiring conversations with students and researchers from many different disciplines who were brimming with ideas to work with our center. We look forward to all these forms of collaboration!
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