Keywords:Environmental Studies Education, Environmental Humanities, Art, Ethics, Literature
I am a Professor of English and Director of the Interdisciplinary Minor in Environmental Studies at the University of Mississippi. Mississippi is a conservative state, and environmental education is not part of many schools’ general curricula. As a result, many Mississippians have little awareness of or interest in environmental issues, and that includes some students when they begin the course “Humanities and the Environment,” the mandatory gateway course for the minor, which I teach every year. Last spring, I interviewed my students regarding the role that the environmental humanities can play in confronting our dire climate emergency. This, in general, is what my students cited as the power of the environmental humanities: to engage the senses, to make us more attentive to the world around us, to stimulate the heart and the imagination. “To a large population,” one biology major said, “sciences are meaningless without a story, an emotionally driven story, that is fact-based. By nature, science is devoid of sympathy. The humanities bring emotion and therefore empathy.” Another, also in biology, concurred. “The humanities supplement scientific understanding,” she said; “they incorporate questions of value, ethics, and history.” Whereas science gives statistics, “the humanities make instances real.” And because the instances are made real, people are made to care.
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Copyright (c) 2020 Ann Fisher-Wirth
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