Can the humanities help solve climate change?

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Denise Valenti, Office of Communications
Sept. 1, 2022

Environmental humanities has come to the forefront as a relatively new field dedicated to applying the techniques of humanistic inquiry to explore environmental concerns of the past, present and future. How we talk about climate change, how we identify stories to tell about its impacts, and communicate data are some of the questions explored by researchers. 

“How do we turn the abstractions of data into animated stories and images that can move people, and put faces and events and infuse drama into environmental data?” said Rob Nixon, the Thomas A. and Currie C. Barron Family Professor in Humanities and the Environment and professor of English and HMEI.

Nearly 40 scholars are formally engaged in environmental humanities through Princeton’s High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI), exploring questions such as how scientists and political leaders communicate environmental narratives, the ethics of when and how to take action to save the planet, and the role of artists and writers in environmental movements.

Such work — at its best — produces models of social change and updated methods for conducting research that are responsive to the long histories of these problems and the need for inclusive, localized, community-engaged responses, said Allison Carruth, professor of HMEI and the Effron Center for the Study of America.

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