• University of New South Wales

Environmental Humanities: Remaking Nature

Learn how the new Environmental Humanities field is shaping how we understand environmental issues, with this free online course.

11,107 enrolled on this course

frog on pile of rubbish
  • Duration

    5 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

In Environmental Humanities: Remaking Nature, you’ll get a broad overview of an emerging area of interdisciplinary research that reframes contemporary environmental challenges using approaches from philosophy, literature, language, history, anthropology, cultural studies and the arts.

You’ll see examples of active research in this field, and discover why humanities research is vital to understanding and confronting contemporary environmental challenges, such as climate change and global biodiversity loss.

“Remake” your ideas about nature

The Environmental Humanities places scientific knowledge in dialogue with the key concerns of the humanities: how people think, feel, protest, vote and create. Our main aim in this course is to consider and create new narratives about how humans and the environment relate to one another.

We’ll begin this course by identifying historical ways of thinking about the environment. Through a range of examples, we’ll illustrate how “nature” is a human invention. We’ll then look at how the role of humans has been conceptualised in opposition to notions of nature, and assert that we were never at the centre, nor in control of the environment.

Having questioned these common “modernist” conceptions about nature, we’ll examine some of the ways in which the natural world is being “remade,” both discursively (in the way we write, speak and think about it) and materially (for instance, in the alteration of DNA and the wholesale transformation of ecosystems).

Finally, we’ll ask you to join us in creating new narratives about nature that demonstrate greater care and concern.

Explore research methods and real-world environmental concerns

Leading experts from the Environmental Humanities programme at UNSW Australia’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences will introduce you to their research in this innovative and interdisciplinary field.

By the end of this course you will:

  • understand why the Environmental Humanities is critical to environmental problem-solving in this age of global environmental crisis;
  • have a clear idea of a range of research methods in the Environmental Humanities;
  • be aware of opportunities and challenges in this area, and how these relate to global environmental concerns;
  • and develop experience in using storytelling to envision new environmental paradigms and ways forward.

Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds Take a look around you. Have you ever thought about your own relationship to the environment? You live, work and play in it, you shape it, and many of us have strong feelings about it — about problems like climate change, toxic waste and endangered species, problems that affect everyone that shares our home, planet Earth. In this course you’ll learn about a new field called the Environmental Humanities, an imaginative area of research that tries to sort out some of the mess we humans have made of our home, by telling a different kind of story about our place within it.

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 seconds To do this, we’ll bring together philosophers, historians, anthropologists, writers and others — leading experts in the Environmental Humanities program at the University of New South Wales Australia, to examine the complex entanglements between humans and the environment. Hidden at the heart of environmental issues are complex histories and questions of politics, morality and religion. And while science has an important role to play, the fate of the environment will ultimately rest in our ability to remake our human value systems. Modernisation will reach its limits, so now is the time we must re-think some basic concepts that organise the architecture of our lives, such as nature, progress, and the right to live or die.

Skip to 1 minute and 38 seconds But this course isn’t all about doom and gloom. It’s about re-crafting our stories and rebooting our institutions for the future. Inhabiting new stories where humans step up to the plate of responsibility, where we give non-humans a voice, and where sustainable futures aren’t merely a dream. This is where you play your part. There are practical and alternative ways forward. So, if you’d like to join us in taking some steps towards a positive future, then this is where your journey begins.

What topics will you cover?

  • The complexity of environmental challenges and the need for interdisciplinary responses
  • The conceptual development of the concept of “nature”
  • Implications of the invention of “nature”
  • Ways of moving beyond anthropocentric (human-centred) perspectives
  • Tactics for intervening in environmental concerns using approaches from a range of humanities subdisciplines
  • Ways in which communicative modes, such as storytelling, can foster more attentive responses to the environmental challenges of our times

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Evaluate the usefulness of Environmental Humanities in contemporary environmental problem-solving
  • Explore a range of creative projects currently being deployed by experts within Environmental Humanties
  • Explain how nature and culture have historically been divided in the West, and the implications of this
  • Experiment with different methods in Environmental Humanities, including storytelling
  • Contribute to the development of knowledge in Environmental Humanities through discussion and curation of resources
  • Apply Environmental Humanities theory and practice to global and local environmental challenges
  • Develop creative responses to current and potential environmental challenges

Who is the course for?

This course is suitable for advanced undergraduates, postgraduates or researchers with a professional interest in Environmental Humanities or related disciplines. It is also suitable for learners around the globe who are interested in influencing environmental change and understanding how the humanities can aid environmental understanding and problem-solving.

Who will you learn with?

I am one of the convenors of "Remaking Nature", and have expertise in Indigenous Australia as well as the Environmental Humanities.

Research: humans and animals in this time of extinction. Animation: years of learning from Aboriginal people, and my love of Earth life. Commitment: multi-species conviviality. Position: Professor.

Crossing conventional disciplinary divides, Eben Kirksey has contributed to theoretical conversations in the social sciences, biology, the humanities, and the arts. http://ebenkirksey.blogspot.com/

Judy Motion is Professor of Communication in the Environmental Humanities group. Judy’s research focuses on activism, discourse and sense making in relation to controversial environmental issues.

I am an Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the Environmental Humanities Programme at UNSW Australia. You can access my research at technofables.wordpress.com and @mbkearnes

I am a Lecturer in Environmental Humanities at the University of New South Wales. My research is situated within the fields of political ecology and environmental history.

Artist, techno-scientific muser, and researcher of lethal comforts.

I’m a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Humanities at the University of New South Wales. I’m also co-editor of the international, open-access journal Environmental Humanities. www.thomvandooren.org

Who developed the course?

UNSW Sydney

Established in 1949 with a unique focus on the scientific, technological and professional disciplines, UNSW is a leading Australian university committed to making a difference

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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