Environmental Humanities Initiative

The NYU Center for the Humanities is pleased to announce a series of events addressing the Environmental Humanities. Convening conversations already taking place among faculty across NYU’s campuses and beyond, the environmental humanities interweave the University’s sustainability initiatives with established and emerging academic fields in environmentalism and ecology (including the Animal Studies Initiative within the Department of Environmental Studies, the Department of Food Studies, and English Literature).

The environmental humanities are a quickly evolving interdisciplinary movement that combines research from the social and natural sciences with the humanities. Scholars, writers, filmmakers, and others active in this field seek new modes for communicating research and are deeply invested in the public’s input on issues ranging from environmental justice to climate change, food security, economic sustainability, and animal welfare and rights. In several of its units NYU fosters humanistic scholarship that underlines the importance of adequately and responsibly representing research about the environment and that critically considers the ethics and aesthetics of politicizing nature. The environmental humanities events at the Center thus deepen a dialogue with other faculty-driven initiatives across campus.


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Spring 2016  |  Fall 2016  |  Spring 2017  |  Fall 2017  |  Spring 2018Fall 2018 | Fall 2019

Fall 2019

Why Trust Science?: Naomi Oreskes in conversation with Andrew Needham

Tuesday, October 15, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
Journalism Institute, 20 Cooper Square, Seventh Floor

Join us for an evening with Naomi Oreskes on her new book, Why Trust Science? Should we take climate experts at their word when they warn us about the perils of global warming? Why should we trust science when our own politicians don’t? In her new book, Naomi Oreskes offers a bold and compelling defense of science, revealing why the social character of scientific knowledge is its greatest strength—and the greatest reason we can trust it. 

Naomi Oreskes is professor of the history of science and affiliated professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University. Her books include The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future and Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming.  

Co-sponsored by the Institute of Public Knowledge and the Environmental Humanities Initiative

Ghost Fleet (2018): Screening and Q&A

Thursday, October 24, 2019, 6:30PM – 8:00PM
Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Film Center, Theater 101
36 E 8th St

Jon Bowermaster (Writer, filmmaker and adventurer),Carl Safina (Conservationist and writer), and Andy Shen (Senior Oceans Advisor, Greenpeace). Panel moderated Nandini Thiyagarajan (Faculty Fellow, NYU).

Ghost Fleet follows a small group of activists who risk their lives on remote Indonesian islands to find justice and freedom for the enslaved fishermen who feed the world’s insatiable appetite for seafood.

“By tackling their stories — and what they’ve endured — head on, it makes its point, leaving a bad taste in your mouth about that discounted tuna at your neighborhood supermarket,” writes the Washington Post in its review of “Ghost Fleet”.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Environmental Studies and the Environmental Humanities Initiative

An Evening of Denial

Monday, November 4, 5:00 – 7:00PM
GCASL, 238 Thompson St, Fifth Floor

Please join activist Kert Davies, journalist Carey Gillam, and scientist Tyrone Hayes in a lively discussion with one another and NYU Environmental Studies faculty member Jennifer Jacquet about the denial of scientific knowledge. Expect to learn about Davies’ uncovering of Exxon’s Secrets, Gillam’s book Whitewash, and Hayes’ path from Silent Spring to Silent Night. Spanning across disciplines and industry sectors, this event will reveal how science denial has affected each of these panelists and each of us in terms of public health and environmental protection.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Environmental Studies and the Environmental Humanities Initiative

Decolonizing Smell: Olfactory Aesthetics and Indigenous Ecologies

Thursday, November 21, 4:30 – 5:45PM
English Department, 244 Greene St, Room 106

Building on Indigenous studies and settler colonial studies scholars who have critiqued colonization’s reordering of both the sensorium and material environments, this talk considers Indigenous writings that present decolonial accounts of olfaction as a means of undoing colonization’s atmospheric disparities. The talk is drawn from Hsuan L. Hsu’s current book project, The Smell of Risk: Atmospheric Disparities and the Olfactory Arts (under contract, NYU Press),which considers olfactory aesthetics as a mode of engaging with environmental injustice in literature, art, and activism.

Hsuan L. Hsu’s research interests include 19th and 20th-Century U.S. literature, Asian diasporic literature, race studies, cultural geography, sensory studies, and the environmental humanities. He is author of Geography and the Production of Space in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (Cambridge, 2010) and Sitting in Darkness: Mark Twain, Asia, and Comparative Racialization (NYU, 2015). A graduate of UC Berkeley, he held positions at Yale and UC Davis before recently joining the faculty at Concordia University.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Environmental Studies and the Environmental Humanities Initiative

Fall 2018

Environmental Art: Re-Imagining Art, Science, and the Humanities

October 16, 6:00 – 7:30 PM
Center for the Humanities, 20 Cooper Square, Fifth Floor

An evening with artist-scholars Elaine Gan (Experimental Humanities), and Marina Zurkow (Tisch School of the Arts), in conversation with Una Chaudhuri (Experimental Humanities), and Yanoula Athanassakis (Environmental Humanities). Gan and Zurkow’s respective bodies of work engage in public humanities and collaborative experiments that draw on the arts, humanities, social and natural sciences to ask questions about radical pluralities of more-than-human worlds. By presenting a series of collaborative experiments, the conversation will focus on the creative and critical lenses through which climate change becomes sensible to new publics.

Co-sponsored by the Environmental Humanities Initiative and the Center for Experimental Humanities.

Sustainable Protein @NYU

Monday, November 26, 6:00PM
44 West 4th St, Cantor Boardroom (room 11-75)

Join us for a panel featuring Rosie Wardle (Investor Engagement at FAIRR), Jody Rasch (Managing Trustee at VegInvest and NYU Stern alum), Chris Kerr (co-CEO and chair of Good Catch), and Euripides Pelekanos (CEO and Founder of Bareburgera), as they talk about the business side of sustainable proteins, ethical businesses, and entrepreneurial “disruptive” investment strategies. The panel is followed by a chance to sample new proteins from Miyoko’s Cheeses, Impossible and Beyond Bareburgers, Good Catch, and Ripple Foods.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Environmental Studies and the NYU Stern School of Business.

Sonic Sea (2017) Film and Q&A

Tuesday, December 4, 6:00PM
20 Cooper Square, Fifth Floor
NYU Production Lab, 16 Washington Place

Throughout the ocean, whales depend on sound to mate, find food, migrate, and defend against predators. A century ago the seas were silent, but now humans fill them with an unbearable cacophony – the sonic “bombs” of oil prospectors, the whirr of freight ships, the shrieks of military sonar – driving whales to death and disorientation. Sonic Sea (2017), narrated by Rachel McAdams and featuring Sting, tells the story of Ken Balcomb, a former Navy officer who solved the tragic mystery of a mass stranding, and the global network of scientists working to limit our deadly clamor.

Join us for the screening of Sonic Sea. Following the film, there will be a Q&A with Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, Ocean Giants Director, Wildlife Conservation Society, who will be joined by Environmental Studies and Animal Studies faculty and scholars including Jennifer Jacquet (Assistant Professor Environmental Studies, NYU) and Yanoula Athanassakis (Director of the Environmental Humanities Initiative, NYU).

Co-sponsored by NYU Animal Studies, Nandini Thiyagarajan (Animal Studies Fellow, NYU).

Spring 2018

This Land Is Our Land: Nature and Nationalism in the Age of Trump

March 7, 6:30-8:00 PM May 11, 6:00 PM
NYU Law School, Tishman Auditorium, 40 Washington Square South

How did a ‘War on Coal’ come to stand for an existential fight among Americans, and between different ideas of the country? How did we move from a band of self-styled ‘patriots’ occupying a wildlife refuge in Oregon in 2015 to the President stripping protection from national monuments in 2017 – with support from those same ‘patriots’? How does denial of climate change hold together various other denials – of interdependence, ecological limits, and global justice? What images of the natural world, and the human place in it, are entangled in the politics of Donald Trump’s presidency and the nationalist right?

Featuring Jedediah Purdy (Robinson O. Everett Professor of Law, Duke University Law School). Click here to register and learn more.

Co-sponsored by The New York Institute for the Humanities and Princeton University Press.

Vegan America: Race, Food, and Politics

March 27, 6:00 – 7:30 PM
Center for the Humanities, 20 Cooper Square, Fifth Floor

Is veganism for white people? Learn about the political and sociological implications and histories of veganism in the United States. Panelists will discuss and raise questions about how veganism is represented, lived, and politicized in the context of inequality, ethics, and social justice.

Featuring David Carter (Founder, 300 Pound Vegan; retired NFL defensive lineman), Syl Ko (Co-Author, APHRO-ISM: Essays on Pop Culture, Feminism, and Black Veganism from Two Sisters), Renan Larue (Assistant Professor of French Literature, UC Santa Barbara), and Marion Nestle (Paulette Goddard Professor and Professor Emerita, Nutrition and Food Studies, NYU).

Hosted by the NYU Center for the Humanities.

Fashion and Animals: Ethical Fashion and Environmentalism

April 10, 6:00 – 7:30 PM
Center for the Humanities, 20 Cooper Square, Fifth Floor

How can animal rights and fashion work together toward a sustainable future? Joshua Katcher, author of the forthcoming Fashion Animals, will discuss the complicated relationship between fashion and animals, and how this relationship has significant environmental impact.

Featuring Joshua Katcher (Founder & Creative Director, Brave GentleMan; Founder & Editor, TheDiscerningBrute.com; Instructor of Fashion, Parsons The New School). More details to be announced.

Hosted by the NYU Center for the Humanities.

Panel: Art in a Dark Time

April 26, 7:00 PM
Silver Center, Room 300 (enter at 32 Waverly Place)

How does one live consciously and ethically in a dark time? What are the roles of artist and audience? Can we take aesthetic pleasure in art that implicates the loss of so much we love and cherish? These questions and more will be addressed by moderator Dale Jamieson, Professor of Environmental Studies and Philosophy, NYU, and speakers Yanoula Athanassakis of Environmental Humanities, NYU; Robert Hopkins, Professor of Philosophy, NYU; and Joel Sternfeld, artist and curator of Landscapes after Ruskin.

Co-sponsored by NYU’s Departments of Art History, Environmental Studies, and Philosophy; Environmental Humanities Event Series at the Center for the Humanities; and Grey Art Gallery.

Beyond Climate Change: Shaping the Future of Humanity

May 18-20, 2018
NYU Shanghai

The 2018 Summit, Beyond Climate Change: Shaping the Future of Humanity, will bring together 30 students for a weekend at NYU Shanghai to rethink the role they can play in exploring solutions to global challenges affecting the environment. This idea came to us from Michelle Huang, a student at NYU Shanghai and former Leadership Initiative Summit participant.

Hosted by the NYU Leadership Initiative, NYU Shanghai, eARThumanities at NYU Abu Dhabi, NYU Office of Sustainability, NYU Office of Global Programs, and the NYU Environmental Humanities Event Series.

Fall 2017

Writing Animals: A Symposium

October 11, 3:00 – 7:30 PM
Center for the Humanities, 20 Cooper Square, Fifth Floor

This symposium will feature, among others, Charles Siebert (NY Times Magazine) and Karen Jay Fowler (We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves).

The event kicks off with “Animal Genres,” a panel including Karen Jay Fowler, novelist, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (2014); Alexandra Horowitz, scientist, author of Being a Dog: Following Dogs into a World of Smell (2016); and Andy Newman, Writer of the Pet City Column of The New York Times, in conversation with members of the faculty of Animal Studies at NYU. The keynote is presented by Charles Siebert, author, journalist, poet, and contributing writer for the NY Times Magazine.

Co-sponsored by NYU’s Animal Studies, Environmental Humanities, Department of English, and Creative Writing Program

A Queer Response to Climate Change: What Would Walt Whitman Do?

October 11, 6:30 PM
Barasch Theater, Jeffrey S. Gould Welcome Center, 50 W. 4th St.

Comic storyteller and LGBTQ activist Peterson Toscano takes on the biggest issue of them all–global warming–and does so with humor, heart, and hope. Drawing on his hilarious characters while also resurrecting the spirit of Walt Whitman, Peterson makes connections between LGBTQ issues and environmental justice. He also time travels to the past and the future. Peterson reveals both the seriousness of climate change with positive and possible visions of the future. Audience members will find themselves thinking in fresh new ways and considering their roles on this new planet. 

Part of the NYU Office for Sustainability’s Education for Sustainability lecture series.

Art and Theory in/for the Anthropocene

November 16, 7:00 PM
La Maison Française, 16 Washington Mews

In this talk, Frédérique Aït-Touati will discuss some of the ways in which the Programme d’Expérimentation en Arts Politiques (SPEAP) or Experimental Program in Political Arts, at Sciences Po, founded by Bruno Latour, explores the creative relationship between, and compositional practices of, art (photography, theater, etc.) and theory in the Age of the Anthropocene. Aït-Touati, who now directs SPEAP, will explore how the program brings together architects, designers, academics, members of the civil service, researchers, administrators, activists, and curators within an experimental framework, to develop new ways of thinking—and of feeling and experiencing—this new age in which man had become a geological force.

Hosted by Judith Miller (NYU) and Phillip John Usher (NYU).

Spring 2017

The Sexual Politics of Meat

February 21, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
Kimmel Center, 60 Washington Square South, Room 802

In this multi-media lecture and discussion, author and activist Carol J. Adams discusses the animalizing of women in contemporary cultural images and the sexualizing of animals used for food. Adams is the author of the pioneering volumes “The Sexual Politics of Meat” and “The Pornography of Meat,” and her work has been formative to both ecofeminism and to new directions in critical animal studies. Her lecture will offer an ecofeminist analysis of the interconnected oppressions of sexism, racism, and speciesism by exploring the way popular culture draws on dominant Western philosophical viewpoints regarding race, gender, and species. One of her ambitions is to show how Western epistemologies actually further the objectification of multiple Others, human and non-. In this lecture, she identifies how meat has been a valued masculine-identified protein source and indicates how assumptions about meat eating and its promotion via advertisements, for example, privilege some beings to the violent exclusion of many others. Complimentary vegan food reception to follow.

Hosted by the Animal Welfare Collective. Co-sponsored by Animal Studies Initiative, Asian American Women’s Alliance, Center for the Study of Gender & Sexuality, and The Feminist Society

Climate Action Conference

March 10 and 11, all day
Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 566 LaGuardia Place
Stern School of Business, 44 West 4th Street

Humanity is facing a global climate emergency, and we must act now to address the environmental, economic and political issues contributing to the problem. The Climate Action Conference aims to mobilize individuals and groups across disciplines and practices. The conference will feature some of the leading figures in the environmental movement as well as leaders from diverse fields such as climate science, medicine, public policy and the arts, as well as elected officials and impacted citizens.

Hosted by Tisch School of the Arts. Co-sponsored by Hip Hop Caucus and Justice Action Mobilization Network

Modern Meat: The Science and Culture of Meat Substitutes

April 21, 2:00 PM
Theater 101, Cantor Film Center, 36 East 8th Street

The Science and Culture of Meat Substitutes will be hosted by NYU Animal Studies Initiative and the Experimental Cuisine Collective. The Collective was launched in 2007 by NYU’s Kent Kirshenbaum (Chemistry) and Amy Bentley (Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health). The event — featuring Prof. Kirshenbaum, Isha Datar (CEO, New Harvest), Alan Levinovitz (Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, JMU), and Ben Wurgaft (Postdoctoral Fellow, MIT) — consists of two panels: the science and business of meat substitutes and the societal dimensions of meat substitutes (history, culture, technology).

Hosted by the Animal Studies Initiative and Experimental Cuisine Collective.

Vegan Living: Fashion, Food, and Fitness

April 25, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
Theater 200, Cantor Film Center, 36 East 8th Street

Join us for a conversation about various aspects of what it means to live as a vegan. Panelists include David Carter, Chloe Coscarelli, Josh Katcher, and Dominick Thompson.

Hosted by the Center for the Humanities.

Fall 2016

Human Futures

September 23, 2016, 6:00 – 7:30 PM
20 Cooper Square, 5th floor

Ursula Heise in conversation with Robert Nixon. Moderated by Una Chaudhuri.

Hosted by the Center for the Humanities. Co-sponsored by Department of Environmental Studies, Department of English, and Department of Comparative Literature.

Sparks of Life: Electricity, Animality, and Film

October 6, 2016, 6:00 – 7:30 PM
20 Cooper Square, 5th floor

Conversation with Anat Pick. Moderated by Una Chaudhuri.

Hosted by the Center for the Humanities. Co-sponsored by Animal Studies Initiative, Department of English, and Department of Cinema Studies

An Inquiry into the Metaphysics of Others

October 13, 2016, 6:00 – 7:30 PM
NYU Law, Vanderbilt Hall, Room 204

Join us for a public lecture by renowned French anthropologist Philippe Descola (Collège de France), with an introduction by Dale Jamieson.

Hosted by the Center for the Humanities. Co-sponsored by Animal Studies Initiative, Department of Anthropology, Department of Environmental Studies, Institute of French Studies, and Maison Française.

Love and Death in the Anthropocene

October 24, 2016, 6:00 – 7:30 PM
20 Cooper Square, 5th floor

Conversation with Ulrich Baer, Dale Jamieson, Bonnie Nadzam, and Roy Scranton. Moderated by Yanoula Athanassakis.

Hosted by the Center for the Humanities. Co-sponsored by Animal Studies Initiative, Department of Environmental Studies, and Department of English.

Captured at Sea: Trafficking, Slavery, and Illegal Fishing on the Open Ocean

November 1, 2016, 6:00 – 7:30 PM
NYU Law, Tishman Auditorium

Conversation with Daniel Pauly, Abby McGill, John Hocevar, and Ian Urbina. Moderated by Jennifer Jacquet.

Hosted by the Center for the Humanities.

Spring 2016

Disaster and Environmental Justice

February 10, 5:00 – 7:00 PM
20 Cooper Square, 7th Floor

We welcome Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction and staff writer for The New Yorker, in conversation with Professor Eric Klinenberg (NYU Sociology and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge), to talk about environmental catastrophes. Introduction by Ulrich C. Baer.

Hosted by the Center for the Humanities.

Food and Animals

March 8, 5:00 – 7:00 PM

A conversation with directors and producers of the film, Cowspiracy (now streaming on Netflix): Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn. Introduction by Gwynneth Malin.

Hosted by the Center for the Humanities.

Vegan Athletes

March 22, 5:00 – 7:00 PM
Vanderbilt Hall (Tishman Auditorium), 40 Washington Square South

“Vegan Athletes” features trendsetting and influential voices in the vegan community and will focus on the athletic, medical, and ethical aspects of a plant-based diet in sports and as a form of activism. The panelists will weigh in on nutrition and how they envision their sport or practice in relation to animal advocacy. Featuring David Carter, Rich Roll, Dominick Thompson, and Michelle McMacken (MD). Moderated by Yanoula Athanassakis; introduction by Nicolas Delon.

Hosted by the Center for the Humanities.

For their support and suggestions on this open-ended series we thank the Institute for Public KnowledgeUna Chaudhuri, Collegiate Professor and Professor of English, Drama, and Environmental Studies; Colin Jerolmack, Associate Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies, Director of Animal Studies Initiative; and NYU Sustainability. Co-facilitators included Vice Provost of Faculty, Arts, Humanities and Diversity, Professor Ulrich Baer; Director of the Center for the Humanities, Gwynneth C. Malin, and Special Assistant to the Deputy Provost, Yanoula Athanassakis.