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News from Environmental Humanities Initiative

The inconvenient consequences of a culture of convenience

ASU Wrigley Institute News Environmental Humanities

October 5, 2018

Huge expanse of plastic waste with sunsetSingle-use plastics — such as cups with straws, takeout containers and water bottles — are so common in our culture of convenience that we often don’t give them a second thought.

But their momentary utility is misleading: These items stick around a really long time.

Because of the way plastic is designed, “its afterlife is much longer than its useful lifespan,” said Rolf Halden, director of the Biodesign Institute's Center for Environmental Health Engineering at Arizona State University. Plastic that we use for just a moment “has the potential to pollute for decades, centuries or millennia.”

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Cambridge University Press’s New Directions in Sustainability and Society book series appoints new editors

ASU Wrigley Institute News Environmental Humanities New Directions

August 27, 2018

In 2013, Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability and the Amerind Foundation entered a partnership with Cambridge University Press to publish a book series exploring the impact of the sustainability sciences. That series, New Directions in Sustainability and Society (NDSS), has just been renewed by Cambridge University Press under new leadership. ASU professors Joni Adamson, an environmental humanist, and Shauna BurnSilver, an environmental anthropologist, have been tapped as the new series editors. The renewed series will expand the original collaboration to include ASU’s Environmental Humanities Initiative.

During its first five years, NDSS was co-edited by Christopher Boone, dean of ASU’s School of Sustainability, and and Norman Yoffee, professor emeritus at University of Michigan’s Department of Anthropology and Department of Near Eastern Studies. Several compelling works were published, including "Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Learning from Indigenous Practices for Environmental Sustainability." This book emerged from a symposium held in 2013 at the Amerind Foundation which gathered sustainability, anthropology and humanities scholars from ASU and across the U.S. to think about sustainability from the perspectives of indigenous peoples. Published in 2018 and edited by Melissa K. Nelson and Dan Shilling, "Traditional Ecological Knowledge" is an exemplar of the collaborative potential of NDSS projects.

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Government policy, public perception and real-world economic consequence

ASU Sustainability News ASU Wrigley Institute News Environmental Humanities

July 12, 2018

Power plant on the Navajo NationEarth is experiencing a Great Transition as its peoples slowly shift from fossil fuels to wind, plants, natural processes and our sun.

It’s not the first time people have changed where they get their energy sources, but as energy historian Chris Jones

said, what makes the Great Transition different is that this time we need to get rid of something, instead of just adding something. Climate change is the binding constraint.

Arizona State University is part of a new coalition of 13 leading research universities committed to tackling climate change. The group — called the University Climate Change Coalition — includes universities from the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Read the full story on ASU Now to learn how ASU energy scholars are confronting the difficult challenges of transforming the climate narrative and enacting change through policy.


Solar technology seeking a balance

ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News Environmental Humanities

July 11, 2018

Solar panels line the top of a building on ASU campus in TempeArizona. Where you don’t have to shovel sunshine, as the old tourism ads chortled. At Arizona State University, students and alumni are Sun Devils. The sun is in the university logo. Solar panels cover almost every structure.

It’s natural then that solar panels take the biggest slice of ASU’s energy research pie. Financial estimates for the next decade point to more than $1 trillion invested in renewable energy globally.

Read the full story on ASU Now to learn more about the evolution of solar energy technology happening at ASU, where researchers are look to find affordable, reliable solutions.


ASU on the forefront of a Great Transition

ASU Wrigley Institute News LightWorks News Environmental Humanities

July 9, 2018

Aerial view of a city skyline with a river at sunsetThere is a Great Transition underway, a colossal shift from fossil fuels to wind, plants, natural processes and our sun. It’s born from technological innovation and necessity. If humanity continues to dispel the dark entirely with carbon fuels, we will eventually wipe ourselves out.

Renewable energy sources are no longer the sole province of Northern California hippies and hard-core Alaskan survivalists.

Are we skipping blithely toward a clean-air future, with solar panels on every roof and an electric car in every garage? Not at all. Experts agree your energy future will involve a mix of sources. It will also involve solving a massive problem that is composed of thousands of problems itself.

Read the full story on ASU Now to learn what Arizona State University researchers are doing to develop scalable, renewable energy solutions for the "wicked problem" of fossil fuel consumption.


ASU sustainability scholar explores the origins of human thinking on climate

ASU Wrigley Institute News Environmental Humanities

May 24, 2018

Joni AdamsonAs Joni Adamson tells it, these are exciting times for the environmental humanities. And she should know: Adamson, a senior sustainability scholar at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, was recently awarded a highly sought-after fellowship from the National Humanities Center and is now looking forward to advancing her work in this realm.

Adamson, whose work explores the intersections between literature and the environment from the perspective of environmental justice, has been tapped to receive the Benjamin N. Duke Fellowship of the Research Triangle Foundation. She is working on a new book that aims to trace the origins of human thinking on climate.

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ASU hosts Environmental Humanities workshop

ASU Wrigley Institute News Environmental Humanities

February 7, 2018

Mike HulmeIn January 2018, over 40 participants from universities around the world gathered at ASU for a workshop co-sponsored by the Environmental Humanities Initiative and the PLuS Alliance.

The workshop focused on the ways that humanities methodologies are contributing to interdisciplinary collaboration and participatory engagement on climate change and energy transition. Participants also explored how better assessment of impact might be piloted through modes of inquiry that include narrative, story, metaphor, imagery and representations that convey the cultural knowledge behind decision making.

Mike Hulme, Professor of Human Geography at the University of Cambridge, kicked off the workshop with a 2018 EHI lecture titled “The Cultural Functions of Climate.” Workshop sessions were keynoted by leading international cultural geographers, humanists and philosophers, including Giovanna Di Chiro of Swarthmore College and Kyle Powys Whyte of Michigan State University.

We followed up with Joni Adamson – English and Environmental Humanities Professor, Senior Sustainability Scholar & Director of the Environmental Humanities Initiative – to tell us more about the workshop and EHI:

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ASU Environmental Humanities alumni help launch Latin American Observatory

Environmental Humanities

July 5, 2017

Coleman Perez Pulecio Awards Ceremony DetroitThe Environmental Humanities Initiative (EHI) networks faculty and students from across 22 units at ASU and is rapidly expanding its international partnerships.

This was evident at the recent Conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment held in Detroit, Michigan. ASU alumni who have studied with EHI faculty traveled to the conference to participate in the launch of the newest observatory in the global Humanities for the Environment network.

Since 2013, ASU has served as the headquarters of the North American (NA) Observatory. Funded in its first phase by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and ASU’s Office of the President, the NA Observatory is in a second phase in which it is supporting the expansion of the network to Latin America, Africa and the Circumpolar North.

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For the Love of Life, Religion and Ecology

ASU Wrigley Institute News Environmental Humanities

January 27, 2017

by Adam Gabriele Roger S. Gottlieb smiling outdoors

Religions have undeniably shaped today’s world. Scholars in the field of Religion and Ecology study the billions of people worldwide who not only identify but also define themselves religiously.  They argue that any attempt to understand the thoughts and decision-making processes of human agents without considering religious drivers is impoverished.

Scholars of Religion and Ecology study religiously charged conflict and division, but they also highlight the potential for respectful inter-religious communication and cooperation. Indeed, Lynn White’s influential 1967 article “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis” – a central text in the field – makes the case that ideas particular to certain religions and religious scripture are most responsible for our current environmental precariousness.  He references the Hebrew Bible, for example, which authorizes humankind to have “dominion over the earth” (Genesis 1:28).

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Understanding climate change through history

Environmental Humanities

December 22, 2016

Colorful Mayan calendar in a park
Mayan calendar, Coszumel, Mexico
By Eytan6

by Sharonah Fredrick, Assistant Director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at ASU

How did the medieval Norse and Inuit peoples adapt to their changing climates in 14th century Greenland? Can people today learn from these histories?

On October 6, 2016, the School of Sustainability, the School for Social Transformation, and the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACMRS) came together to grapple with these kinds of imaginative and scholarly questions.  At an event titled “Climate Change in Historical Perspective,” panelists covered topics that moved from the ancient Americas through medieval Greenland, and from contemporary communities threatened by climate change in Ecuador and Morocco through ethnogeological studies of Diné (Navajo) and other Indigenous knowledge of Earth systems and processes.

With reference to ancient documents and stories, panelists posed interdisciplinary questions to the audience to break through artificial barriers between the arts, social sciences/humanities and the sciences.

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Understanding climate and energy through environmental humanities

LightWorks News Environmental Humanities

May 18, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 11 52 44 AMEnvironmental humanities is a rapidly growing field focused on the study of human imagination, perception, behaviors and the relationship with their surrounding environments, both social and natural. Arizona State University humanist research is led by sustainability scholar Dr. Joni Adamson. Her research defines how and why, in the face of seemingly non-imminent danger, humans choose to act as they do and what would make them shift direction rapidly.

This approach is being integrated into all climate and energy research at ASU. This work will contribute substantially to the understanding of human behaviors, motivations, and decision-making, both individually and collaboratively. This research aims to catalyze the rapid social transitions needed to address global energy transitions and climate change.

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How ‘Cli-Fi’ Promotes Sustainable Awareness

LightWorks News Environmental Humanities

April 28, 2015

Clifi1Can a story trigger social movement? What is the role of imagination in society’s’ response to climate change? On April 2, ASU‘s Manjana Milkoreit moderated a panel event sponsored by ASU’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative (ICF) titled “Climate Fiction: Science, Stories, or Seeds of Transformation”. The panelists included LightWorks affiliates Joni Adamson, Sydney Lines, and Clark Miller, who examined the roots of the emerging “cli-fi” literary genre and its impact beyond simply telling stories.

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Connecting the Humanities and Sustainability: An Interview with Joni Adamson

LightWorks News Environmental Humanities

February 17, 2015

HumanitiesJoni1Joni Adamson likes to call herself a “Jill of all trades.” Adamson, a professor of English and Environmental Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) and a Senior Sustainability Scholar at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU, has developed an impressive repertoire of research interests including but not limited to: environmental humanities, environmental literature and film, Sonoran Desert ecosystems and cultures, global indigenous studies, food sovereignty, and critical plant studies.

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