Looking back at the merits of our generation, an increased attention and care for the environment will hopefully be one of the virtues that we will be remembered for. In fact, many of today’s discourses on the environmental situation paints precisely this picture of apocalyptic urgency. It is now or never; if we do not act there won’t be many generations around to judge us anyway, hence the emphasis on “hopefully”. The irreparable damage that has been done to the environment will certainly alter the living conditions of both present and future generations, but the fact that we speak of environmentalisms and ecologies of different kinds – and that we do, because these concepts have found their way into almost every discourse and domain of life – proves that there is still hope for political and economic change into what would be considered more sustainable practices. Yet, as we set off to tackle this massive task that we have ahead of us, it is equally important, despite the urgency, that we do not merely leave the premises of such an undertaking unexamined. For example, what does concepts such as “sustainability”, “the environment” and “nature” entail? These important questions are at a risk of being left unanswered if we do not allow ourselves the time to think them through. It would not only be unfortunate but counterproductive, if we agree that anthropocentric, epistemological hubris is part of the reason for our current ecological predicament, to leave the questions of how to conceive of it wholly in the hands of technocratic and managerial experts, pretending that there are simple and objective blueprints out there in the world just waiting to be implemented. Such a simplification misses precisely its ontological, epistemological, ethical as well as political entanglements. Thus, if ecological thought and our care for the environment identifies a crisis to be dealt with, there is an imperative that we collectively think how it can be understood. It is with this imperative that the field of the environmental humanities, as well as our own research interests and passions, enter.
Just like the interdisciplinarity signaled by this field, so are we a group of varied backgrounds and expertise (including but not reduced to: environmental science, political theory, sociology, gender studies and urban planning). At a moment in history where technoscience enjoys an ever so influential status, and most often get the last word on environmental issues, diversity is something that we value highly. Our attitude is that there is much to learn from each other’s experiences once we challenge ourselves and venture outside our comfortable boundaries, whether they be academic disciplines or other forms of knowledge production. Part of the imperative is therefore to make sure that environmentalism is politicized to include a number of different voices and perspectives, both in terms of research and within the public debate – and in the exchange between both of these camps. This blog will function as our platform to contribute to such an exchange. Here we will post a collaboratory post each week (along with occasional, personal whims) ranging from everything from engaging with theoretical concepts, trying out new ideas, illuminating pressing issues, sharing experiences from different forms of action and activism, to updates on our day-to-day work – to sum it up: a whole range of topics that we find relevant for the environmental humanities. Our hope is that this will inspire you readers, so as to encourage exchange not only between so-called academia and civil society, but first and foremost between individuals with different expertise and experiences. It means that we wish that you will also react to our posts and give us feedback with your opinions, so that we together can embark on this journey of conceptualizing the problems we face.
One can say that what brings us together is a shared sense of being in this co-existentially, mutually affected, something that the social institutions of science-humanities, academia-civil society, social-natural often only serve to make abstract and difficult to realize. What this essentially serves as then, is as an exploration of approaching the problems we face beyond these dualisms; to acknowledge that we are literally “in” it. If there is no privileged position of an outside to the environment from which we as humans interact, we must recognize the foolishness of human exceptionalism and instead reignite debates about our interdependence and vulnerability. Such projects – note that it is problematic to speak of a “project” here, as if this was a coherent movement, especially since we seek to work against the idea that there is any one objectively true, overarching narrative to what this would entail; thus projects in plural – are no small undertakings, and neither is it on beforehand obvious how they should play out. But that does not mean that we should not try. The interesting forms of science and activism are those that attempts to break new ground, not merely being satisfied with the governing, paradigmatic narratives. This blog will serve as one of our little experiments within that vein, and we hope that you will join us in, as Donna Haraway would say, “becoming-with”.
Daniel, Alejandra, María, Justin & Åsa
Ph.D.-candidates at Linköping University, Uppsala University and the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, and participants within the research programme “The Seed Box: An Environmental Humanities Collaboratory”.