How to write an obituary for an embattled planet

Jan. 26, 2017

New courses merge the humanities with environmental consciousness as part of the Environmental Humanities Program coordinated by the Princeton Environmental Institute. The program engages the humanities in the study of environmental subjects in order to develop well-rounded insights into environmental issues.

Several courses connected with this program, taught by faculty from a variety of departments, explore how humankind can address society’s most pressing issue — the environment. The goal of this initiative is to expand an understanding of the environment beyond the usual suspects of scientists, engineers and politicians to include ethicists, philosophers, journalists and others.

Literature — fiction and nonfiction — possesses a unique ability to transcend time, and the emotional agility to impart the suffering of people whose worlds have been rendered inhospitable, said Göran Blix, associate professor of French and Italian.

The arts and humanities “put flesh and bones on scientific models and give them life that regular people are moved by,” says Rob Nixon, the Thomas A. and Currie C. Barron Family Professor in Humanities and the Environment. “The idea has been that if you produce enough environmental data, humanity will follow it. But we now know that there are societal forces that will block those channels.”

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