Humanistic Studies

UW-Green Bay

Category: Voelker

What’s “Environmental Humanities” all about? by David Voelker

“Environmental Humanities” is a new minor emphasis in the Humanities. Starting last year, UWGB offers a minor in Humanities, with an emphasis on environmental topics. In addition to including interdisciplinary Humanities classes, the program also includes courses from English, First Nations Studies, History, and Philosophy.

We often think of environmental problems as scientific and technical problems, so when we think about sustainability, we usually turn to scientific and technical solutions. While science and technology are clearly critical to both understanding and solving our environmental problems, they are two pieces of a larger puzzle. After all, since the 1960s (at least), we’ve had a growing scientific understanding of several environmental crises that are underway, including problems with pollution, deforestation, declining biodiversity, and climate change. During the same period, technologies for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other environmentally friendly measures have expanded tremendously. Yet, arguably, the overall global environment is more degraded than ever before in human history. What gives?

To understand what’s going on, we clearly need a perspective that includes history, culture, and ethics. That’s where the Environmental Humanities come in!

The study of History can give us insight into how and why current environmental problems developed over a long period of time and across vast distances on Earth–and can also help us understand and evaluate how effective various efforts of reform and regulation have been over the years.

First Nations Studies allows us to consider perspectives on the relationship between humans and (the rest of nature) that depend more on respect and reciprocity than on control and consumption. What would it mean, as Potawatomi botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer has asked, to “Reclaim the Honorable Harvest”?

Last but not least, Philosophy helps us think in a complex way about the ethical issues involved in our relationships with the natural environment. What’s the moral significance of a tree or of a disappearing species? Do we have obligations to the environment that go beyond human needs? What do we owe future generations?

Taken together, these humanistic disciplines empower us to ask crucial, big questions, including: When we talk about sustainability, what exactly is it that we are trying to sustain?

For the Spring 2019, we are offering three courses that will count toward the minor emphasis in Environmental Humanities:

  • FNS 224: First Nations and the Sacred
  • History 220: American Environmental History
  • FNS 360: Women and Gender in First Nations Communities

For Fall 2019, we are offering two courses that will count toward the minor emphasis in Environmental Humanities:

  • Hum Stud 100: Living the Humanities: Humans and Nature (with substitution)
  • Hum Stud 400: Humanities Practicum (with substitution)

Click here for more information about the Environmental Humanities program at UWGB, or feel free to contact me for questions. There are a couple of other courses that may be substituted for requirements, so please do check in with me or with the Humanities adviser, Professor Heidi Sherman.

Written by,

David Voelker

Associate Professor of Humanities and History

920-465-2491

voelkerd@uwgb.edu

Come on out to the Philosopher’s Cafe

Green Bay Area Philosophers’ Café – A meeting of minds

What is the Philosophers’ Café?
Faculty from UWGB and St. Norbert College are collaborating to initiate a series of Philosophers’ Cafés in the Green Bay area. Philosophers’ Cafés are public forums held at local coffee shops and pubs in which community members engage in open, friendly, and respectful dialogue in a relaxed and informal setting. We will discuss topics ranging from traditional philosophical problems to pressing contemporary issues. Topics will be introduced and discussions moderated by faculty from either St. Norbert College or UWGB.

Who should attend?
All are welcome and a diversity of views and approaches are encouraged. No formal training in Philosophy (or anything else) is required – just an interest in good questions and good conversation.

Check out this year’s schedule at: http://www.uwgb.edu/philosophers-cafe/schedule.asp

On Civil Disobedience

The second Great Books Discussion will be held Tuesday, October 14, at 6:30 p.m. on the lower level of the Brown Count Library (Central Branch – 515 Pine St., Downtown Green Bay).

Professor David Voelker will lead a discussion of Henry David Thoreau’s “Resistance to Civil Government”.

Professor Voelker’s brief intorduction to the essay and study questions are available at Ex Post Facto: Thoreau and Disobedience.

The text of Thoreau’s essay may be found at “Resistance to Civil Government”.

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