Special Issue "Environmental Humanities Approaches to Climate Change"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 August 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. David Higgins
Website
Guest Editor
School of English, University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK
Interests: Romantic literature; the Anthropocene; philosophical pessimism; nature writing; culture and climate change
Dr. Tess Somervell
Website
Guest Editor
School of English, University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK
Interests: Eighteenth-century and Romantic literature; ecocriticism; nature poetry; climate and literature
Prof. Nigel Clark
Website
Guest Editor
Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster, LA1 4YQ, UK
Interests: Anthropocene; geophilosophy; climate and society; political geology; corporeal climatology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

‘Environmental Humanities Approaches to Climate Change’ investigates the various ways in which we experience climate change. ‘Climate,’ writes Mike Hulme, ‘is weather which has been cultured, interpreted and acted on by the imagination, through story-telling and using material technologies’ (Weathered: Cultures of Climate). Whereas weather can be experienced directly, climate and climate change are inevitably mediated and remediated through cultural forms: particular narratives, vocabularies, images, objects, and symbols. This presents a considerable opportunity for scholars in the humanities and social sciences, who are well placed to analyse how climate change is understood, represented, and communicated in relation to specific socio-political contexts and within specific ethical and epistemological frameworks. However, it also presents a significant challenge. How can we be attentive to climate change as story without supporting the idea that it is a mere fiction? How can we move from understanding climate change as politically and culturally produced to imagining ways in which it might be mitigated? How does an understanding of climate change’s mediations remain alert to the brute facticity of environmental forces?

The special issue will bring together researchers whose work does not necessarily fit into traditional disciplinary silos. Its purpose is to explore and demonstrate the insights offered by the humanities into the cultural forms that climate change takes, and therefore to argue for the important contribution that the environmental humanities can make to climate change studies. It will be an opportunity to reflect on the broader question of the relationship between the fine-grained analytical work practised in the environmental humanities and the more instrumentalised approach to ‘climate solutions’ in the natural sciences and ‘hard’ social sciences; a relationship that it is important to address given that the problem of climate change is partly a problem of communication and imagination.

‘Environmental Humanities Approaches to Climate Change’ will build upon the groundbreaking work of scholars such as Julie Doyle (Mediating Climate Change) and Mike Hulme, who have emphasised the political, cultural, and communicative dimensions of climate change. A special issue on the subject of the cultural forms of climate change will be able to address the diversity of these forms across time and space and beyond the scope of a single-author study. It will also be an intervention in the ongoing debate around the Anthropocene (e.g. Bonneuil and Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene; Davies, The Birth of the Anthropocene). One of the key problems with the concept is that it can be used to suggest a monolithic species-wide agency that not only exaggerates human power but also glosses over the considerable inequalities that generate climate change and to which it contributes. A more nuanced notion of the Anthropocene requires a nuanced analysis of the diverse ways through which climate change can be understood in relation to human discourse and practice, rather than seeing it simply as a measure of what ‘we’ do in a purely physical sense to an environment that is imagined as somehow external to us. Therefore, the special issue also relates to the recent development of ‘new materialist’ environmental philosophy (e.g. Bennett, Vibrant Matter; Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway) which similarly aims to complicate ideas of anthropogenic agency and to understand the ‘culturing’ of climate change as a process in which human and nonhuman actors/actants are entangled.

Yours faithfully,

Dr. David Higgins
Dr. Tess Somervell
Prof. Nigel Clark
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • environmental humanities
  • ecocriticism
  • the Anthropocene
  • deep time

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial
Afterword: Reflections on Humanities Engagements with the Cultural Politics of Climate Change: Histories, Representations, Practices
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 104; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030104 - 04 Sep 2020
Abstract
Understandings of, and responses to, climate change are culturally and historically specific, informed and shaped by a complex set of intersecting social, historical, economic and political systems and representational practices [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Humanities Approaches to Climate Change)
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Open AccessEditorial
Introduction: Environmental Humanities Approaches to Climate Change
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 94; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030094 - 25 Aug 2020
Abstract
The development of the environmental humanities as an interdisciplinary formation is a response to an ecological and planetary crisis [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Humanities Approaches to Climate Change)

Research

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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Climates of Change: A Tuatara’s-Eye View
Humanities 2020, 9(2), 38; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9020038 - 01 May 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
The tuatara or New Zealand “spiny-backed lizard” (Sphenodon punctatus) is the sole surviving member of an order of reptiles that pre-dates the dinosaurs. Among its characteristics and peculiarities, the tuatara is renowned for being slow-breathing and long-lived; it possesses a third [...] Read more.
The tuatara or New Zealand “spiny-backed lizard” (Sphenodon punctatus) is the sole surviving member of an order of reptiles that pre-dates the dinosaurs. Among its characteristics and peculiarities, the tuatara is renowned for being slow-breathing and long-lived; it possesses a third eye on the top of its skull for sensing ultraviolet light; and the sex of its progeny is determined by soil temperatures. This article unravels a tuatara’s-eye view of climate change, considering this creature’s survival across geological epochs, its indigenous lineage and its sensitivities to the fast-shifting conditions of the Anthropocene. This article examines the tuatara’s evolving role as an icon of biodiversity-under-threat and the evolving role of zoos and sanctuaries as explicators of climate change, forestallers of extinction, and implementers of the reproductive interventions that are increasingly required to secure the future of climate-vulnerable species. It is also interested in the tuatara as a witness to the rapid and ongoing human-wrought climate change which has secured the lifeworld reconstruction that is foundational to the settler colonial enterprise in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Linking this to the Waitangi Tribunal’s Wai 262 report (Ko Aotearoa Tēnei, 2011), the article considers what the tuatara teaches about kaitiakitanga (guardianship) and climates of change. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Humanities Approaches to Climate Change)
Open AccessArticle
The Great Displacement: Reading Migration Fiction at the End of the World
Humanities 2020, 9(1), 25; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9010025 - 09 Mar 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
This paper examines how contemporary works of fiction and nonfiction reflect on anticipated cases of climate dislocation. Building on existing research about migrant agency, climate fiction, and human rights, it traces the contours of climate migration discourse before analyzing how three twenty-first-century novels [...] Read more.
This paper examines how contemporary works of fiction and nonfiction reflect on anticipated cases of climate dislocation. Building on existing research about migrant agency, climate fiction, and human rights, it traces the contours of climate migration discourse before analyzing how three twenty-first-century novels enable us to reimagine the “great displacement” beyond simplistic militarized and humanitarian frames. Zooming in on stories by Mohsin Hamid, John Lanchester, and Margaret Drabble that envision hypothetical calamities while responding to present-day refugee “crises”, this paper explains how these texts interrogate apocalyptic narratives by demilitarizing borderscapes, exploring survivalist mindsets, and interrogating shallow appeals to empathy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Humanities Approaches to Climate Change)
Open AccessArticle
(Un)Earthing Civilization: Holocene Climate Crisis, City-State Origins and the Birth of Writing
Humanities 2020, 9(1), 1; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9010001 - 18 Dec 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Today, concern about population displacement triggered by climate change is prompting some sovereign states to tighten security measures, as well as inciting ethically and politically motivated calls to relax border controls. This paper explores resonances between the current climate predicament and events in [...] Read more.
Today, concern about population displacement triggered by climate change is prompting some sovereign states to tighten security measures, as well as inciting ethically and politically motivated calls to relax border controls. This paper explores resonances between the current climate predicament and events in the mid-Holocene. Paleoclimatic and archaeological evidence is reviewed, suggesting that an abrupt turn to cooler, drier weather in the 4th millennium BCE triggered high volume migration to fertile river valleys—most fully documented in Mesopotamia but also visible in other regions around the world. This unprecedented agglomeration of bodies has been linked to the emergence of intensive irrigated agriculture and the rise of city-states. In conversation with the ancient Sumerian Gilgamesh epic, this paper draws upon archaeological research to conceptualize urban wall building and emergent practices of graphical notation as different forms of mediation. Both city walls and early writing, it is argued, deal with the interplay of mobilism and sedentarism, and both ‘media’ entail tactile, plastic use of local materials—namely riverbank clay. This paper addresses the paradox that the underpinning of ‘civilization’ by these once experimental media may now be fundamentally restricting socio-political, cultural, cognitive and embodied capacities to engage effectively with climate-driven upheaval. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Humanities Approaches to Climate Change)
Open AccessArticle
Anthropocenic Limitations to Climate Engineering
Humanities 2019, 8(4), 186; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8040186 - 17 Dec 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
The development of climate engineering research has historically depended on mostly western, holistic perceptions of climate and climate change. Determinations of climate and climate change as a global system have played a defining role in the development of climate engineering. As a result, [...] Read more.
The development of climate engineering research has historically depended on mostly western, holistic perceptions of climate and climate change. Determinations of climate and climate change as a global system have played a defining role in the development of climate engineering. As a result, climate engineering research in general, and solar radiation management (SRM) in particular, is primarily engaged in research of quantified, whole-Earth solutions. I argue that in the potential act of solar radiation management, a view of climate change that relies on the holistic western science of the climatic system is enshrined. This view, dependent on a deliberative intentionality that seems connected to anthropocenic notions of responsibility and control, profoundly influences the assumptions and research methods connected to climate engineering. While this may not necessarily be to the detriment of climate engineering proposals—in fact, it may be the only workable conception of SRM—it is a conceptual limit to the enterprise that has to be acknowledged. Additionally, in terms of governance, reliability, and cultural acceptance, this limit could be a fundamental objection to future experimentation (or implementation). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Humanities Approaches to Climate Change)
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Mediating Climate, Mediating Scale
Humanities 2019, 8(4), 159; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8040159 - 11 Oct 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Climate communication is seemingly stuck in a double bind. The problem of global warming requires inherently trans-scalar modes of engagement, encompassing times and spaces that exceed local frames of experience and meaning. Climate media must therefore negotiate representational extremes that risk overwhelming their [...] Read more.
Climate communication is seemingly stuck in a double bind. The problem of global warming requires inherently trans-scalar modes of engagement, encompassing times and spaces that exceed local frames of experience and meaning. Climate media must therefore negotiate representational extremes that risk overwhelming their audience with the immensity of the problem or rendering it falsely manageable at a local scale. The task of visualizing climate is thus often torn between scales germane to the problem and scales germane to individuals. In this paper I examine how this scalar divide has been negotiated visually, focusing in particular on Ed Hawkins’ 2016 viral climate spiral. To many, the graphic represents a promising union of political and scientific communication in the public sphere. However, formal analysis of the gif’s reception suggest that the spiral was also a site of anxiety and negative emotion for many viewers. I take these conflicting interpretations as cause to rethink current assumptions about best practices and desirable outcomes for scalar mediations of climate and their capacities to mobilize a wide range of reactions and interpretations—some more legibly political and some more complicatedly affective, yet all nevertheless integral to the work of building a holistic response to the climate crisis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Humanities Approaches to Climate Change)
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Open AccessArticle
Bees, Extinction and Ambient Soundscapes: An Exploratory Environmental Communication Workshop
Humanities 2019, 8(3), 153; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8030153 - 19 Sep 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
As a response to the challenges that visual communication, popularly used in environmental communications, poses for more embodied engagements with climate change, this article focuses upon the neglected role of sound within environmental and climate communication scholarship. Focusing upon the decline of bees [...] Read more.
As a response to the challenges that visual communication, popularly used in environmental communications, poses for more embodied engagements with climate change, this article focuses upon the neglected role of sound within environmental and climate communication scholarship. Focusing upon the decline of bees as a meaningful topic for the exploration of climate change, this article draws on research conducted with participants of a soundscape workshop to investigate the potential benefits and limitations of using sound-based activities to communicate about a specific climate change topic. This article demonstrates that modes of communicating climate change that encourage people to participate in imaginative, creative and future-based thinking can provide an effective way to engage audiences with the topic of climate change, thus encouraging greater individual and collective action. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Humanities Approaches to Climate Change)
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Open AccessArticle
Climate Delusion: Hurricane Sandy, Sea Level Rise, and 1840s Catastrophism
Humanities 2019, 8(3), 131; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8030131 - 01 Aug 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
The existential global threat of inundation of the world’s low-lying port cities necessitates a radical shift in the dominant climate framework of sustainability and resilience to include catastrophism. Scientists and social scientists of the industrial crisis decade of the 1840s, arguably the Anthropocene’s [...] Read more.
The existential global threat of inundation of the world’s low-lying port cities necessitates a radical shift in the dominant climate framework of sustainability and resilience to include catastrophism. Scientists and social scientists of the industrial crisis decade of the 1840s, arguably the Anthropocene’s historical origin, offer a model for theorizing twenty-first century catastrophe in both geophysical and social terms, as in the case study of Hurricane Sandy presented here. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Humanities Approaches to Climate Change)
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