In our current social landscape, climate change is perhaps the most pressing issue affecting societies on a global scale. This urgency is deeply felt in literature and the arts and is shaping research in philosophy and history. As Elizabeth M. DeLoughrey explains, our “increasing awareness of climate change is catalyzing new imaginaries”. History offers numerous examples of major climate events, which not only help us to understand what is exceptional about the current situation but also to find models of resilience. Habitat loss and the catastrophic decline of the world’s wildlife are brought into sharp relief by studying the rich biodiversity of previous centuries.
If the study of the environment has often been seen as the province of the natural and social sciences, recent work by scholars engaged in the Environmental Humanities is bringing vital new perspectives into the study of the Anthropocene, by shedding light on the past, current and future relationships between human beings and the physical environment. TORCH offers scholars and students the necessary, innovative platforms and resources to connect these different strands in order to generate meaningful collaborations and to add an essential Humanities voice to the debate.
Underpinning this research is a common series of broad questions: how does human activity (historical, contemporary, and imagined) shape the world around us? How can tracing such activity contribute to a deeper understanding of humans’ mark on the natural world, as well as the potential for resilience in the Anthropocene? And what can we learn from natural systems, places, and ecologies? Environmental humanities provide a route to analysing such changes. In attending to such questions, scholars share a mode of enquiry that is open, reflective and imaginative, but that also seeks to translate research into new transformational forms of knowledge.
Academic Lead: Fiona Stafford (Faculty of English)