How Can Humanities Interventions Promote Progress in the Environmental Sciences?

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Environmental humanists make compelling arguments about the importance of the environmental humanities (EH) for discovering new ways to conceptualize and address the urgent challenges of the environmental crisis now confronting

Environmental humanists make compelling arguments about the importance of the environmental humanities (EH) for discovering new ways to conceptualize and address the urgent challenges of the environmental crisis now confronting the planet. Many environmental scientists in a variety of fields are also committed to incorporating socio-cultural analyses in their work. Despite such intentions and rhetoric, however, and some humanists’ eagerness to incorporate science into their own work, “radical interdisciplinarity [across the humanities and sciences] is ... rare ... and does not have the impact one would hope for” (Holm et al. 2013, p. 32). This article discusses reasons for the gap between transdisciplinary intentions and the work being done in the environmental sciences. The article also describes a project designed to address that gap. Entitled “From Innovation to Progress: Addressing Hazards of the Sustainability Sciences”, the project encourages humanities interventions in problem definition, before any solution or action is chosen. Progress offers strategies for promoting expanded stakeholder engagement, enhancing understanding of power struggles and inequities that underlie problems and over-determine solutions, and designing multiple future scenarios based on alternative values, cultural practices and beliefs, and perspectives on power distribution and entitlement.