Torch - Smith School symposium: Mind the environmental gap - humanities, interdisciplinarity and environmental challenges

This Symposium sprang from the Smith School-TORCH Humanities Seminar Series, which began in October 2012.

It is based on the belief that environmental thinking – often shaped by a combination of the physical and social sciences – would be much enriched if there were more emphasis on the diverse perspectives provided by the humanities. This is not a new idea. However the 2001 assertion made by Professor Jonathan Bate in The Song of the Earth still seems to be true more than a decade on: 'The values with which the humanities have taught us to regard humankind have rarely been extended to the material world which the sciences examine and technology transforms.'

Emerging environmental challenges require a paradigm shift in the relationship between humans, the sciences, and our planet. The humanities must surely be at the core of any such environmentally-driven cultural change.

This interdisciplinary Symposium will investigate cultural aspects of societal engagement with environmental challenges, and the interactions between culture, the physical and social sciences and policy in achieving change. To this end our panels will challenge and contextualise the seeming present-day separation between humanity and nature by exploring four key themes – Footprints, Biodiversity, Animals and The State.

The Torch Smith School £1,000 prize for creative work on the environment.

Thanks to the generosity of an external donor, three prizes of £1000 will be awarded to outstanding pieces of creative, critical or historical work in each of the fields of literature, music and visual art that is in the spirit of the upcoming TORCH-Smith School 'Mind the Environmental Gap' Symposium.

To find out more click here.

The Programme

(NB The events on Friday are open to all, but you must register to attend the Saturday events. To register please email events@smithschool.ox.ac.uk with your name and what day(s) you wish to attend.)

Day 1 - Friday 25th October 2013

14:00 - 15:00 | Welcome Keynote Address | Seminar room, TORCH, Radcliffe Humanities Building

Prof Jonathan Bate CBE- Provost of Worcester College, University of Oxford; Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Society of Literature; (author of "Song of the Earth)

Tea | Radcliffe Humanities Building

17:00 - 18:15 | "Writing Environments: Entanglements of Nature/Culture in Literature and Music" | Seminar room, TORCH, Radcliffe Humanities Building

T. A. Barron - Popular nature and children's author (author of the Merlin saga)

Dr Daniel Grimley - Faculty of Music, University of Oxford

Opening Response: Richard Kerridge - Nature writer; ecocritic (author of "Writing the Environment: Ecocriticism and Literature")

(The 'mind the environmental gap' prizes in literature, music and art will be awarded at the end of this session)

20:30 - 21:30 | Musical Performance | Jacqueline du Pre Music Building, St Hilda's College

The Ligeti Quartet


Day 1 - Friday 26th October 2013

8:00 - 8:30 | Registration + Coffee

8:30 - 8:45 | Introduction

8:45 - 10:25 | Panel 1 | Footprints


David Sergeant - Lecturer in English, Plymouth University


Kirsty Jenkinson - Director, Markets and Enterprise Programme, WRI

Peter Cusack - Member, CRISAP-Research into Sound Arts Practice

Dr Hayden Lorimer - Reader, School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow

10:25 - 10:55 | Tea

10:55 - 12:35 | Panel 2 | Animals


Jamie Lorimer - University Lecturer in Human Geography, Fellow of Hertford College, University of Oxford

Jamie Castell - Fellow of Hertford College, Oxford


Harriet Ritvo - Arthur J. Conner Professor of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Mark Stanley-Price (Senior Research Fellow at Univ of Oxford Wildlife Conservation Unit (WildCru))

12:35 - 13:35 | Lunch

13:40 - 15:20 | Panel 3 | Biodiversity and Biocultural Diversity


William Beinart, Rhodes Professor of Race Relations, African Studies Centre, University of Oxford


Tom Thornton - Director of the MSc Programme, Environmental Chance Institute, University of Oxford

Dan Brockington - Professor in Conservation and Development, University of Manchester

Yavinder Malhi (TBC), Professor of Ecosystem Science, University of Oxford

15:20 - 15:50 | Tea

15:50 - 17:30 | Panel 4 | The State


Prof Bernard Silverman, Chief Scientific Adviser, Home Office; Professor of Statistics and member of the Statistics Department, University of Oxford; Senior Research Fellow at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment


Myles Allen - Lecturer in Physics; Fellow of Wolfson College, University of Oxford

Monica Toft - Professor of Government and Public Policy, Blavatnik School of Governance, University of Oxford

Richard Kerridge - Nature writer, ecocritic and coordinator of Graduate Studies and Research in the Humanities, Bath Spa University

17:30 - 17:45 | Reflections: Key Insights in Brief


Elleke Boehmer - Professor of World Literature in English, Wolfson College, University of Oxford

20:00 - 22:00 | Jacqueline du Pre Music Building, St Hilda's College

Koyaanisqatsi - The Film | Screening + Discussion



Environmental Humanities

Media: Mind the Environmental Gap


Environmental HumanitiesTORCH Programmes