I’m pretty sure I have been well behind the curve when it comes to the field of environmental humanities. What I didn’t realize as I criss-crossed India working on A River Runs Again was that my method of reporting and research was just that: taking a systems approach and thinking about the interconnected, interdisciplinary aspects to the complicated realm of environmental stories I was exploring. It led me to understand, for example, that designing a clean cookstove was a gender issue as much as (or more than) a technological one and that the disappearance of vultures could have religious as well as ecological implications. I had stepped, without realizing it, into the world of environmental humanities.
So — to bury the lede — it’s with great delight that I announce that for the 2019-2020 academic year, I’ll be the Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and the Humanities at Princeton University. I’ll be rooted within the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI). In their words:
PEI advances understanding of the Earth as a complex system influenced by human behavior, and it informs solutions to local and global challenges by conducting groundbreaking research across disciplines and by preparing future leaders in diverse fields to impact a world increasingly shaped by climate change.
I’m still staggered to be able to spend the year at PEI along with the 120 Princeton professors associated with the institute, from ethicist Peter Singer to evolutionary biologist David Wilcove to feminist scholar Anne McClintock to “Slow Violence” author Rob Nixon, who first brought me to Princeton to give a talk to his class back in the fall of 2017, when they were reading my book. (Thanks, Rob!)
This fall, I look forward to teaching ENV 375, Crossing the Climate Divide. Here’s a description of the class:
The effects of climate change are here, now. Yet Americans are divided on this singular issue. Or are they? While media often portray climate change debates as binary—fact-averse conservative denialists vs. Green-New-Deal leftists—the reality is that all Americans are experiencing changes in their own backyards. For some it is the impact of devastating extreme events such as wildfires or storm flooding; for others, it is noticing quieter shifts such as when spring blooms and birds arrive. How they process and understand these changes will be the focus of our semester.
I’ll be drawing on my experiences over the last year and half, working on the nine-part series Finding Middle Ground for InsideClimate News, along with a diverse range of writing on these issues. Here are some, and if you know of others I should be reading, please send suggestions my way:
- Candis Callison, How Climate Change Comes to Matter: The Communal Life of Facts
- Mitch Hescox and Paul Douglas, Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and A Healthy Environment
- Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right
- Andrew J. Hoffman, How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate
- Michael Mann and Tom Toles, Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy
- Naomi Oreskes and Erik. M. Conway, Merchants of Doubt
- Elizabeth Rush, Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore
- Earl Swift, Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island
In the spring, I’ll be teaching another course as well as organizing a symposium, details to be determined.
Here’s to new opportunities and to deepening the inquiry that’s been the force of my adult life: how do we humans, all of us, live healthy, meaningful lives on a planet of finite resources, a singular place we inhabit with so many other living creatures, great and small? It is a question made all the more urgent as the warming of the planet quickens, and the stakes ratchet up.
AND…if you have any leads on housing in Princeton (one bedroom, quiet & sunny preferred), contact me.