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01 Guiding Concepts

Common. Threads.

The guiding concepts that connect our Observatories represent the shared ideas informing our outlooks and shaping our research outcomes.

02 Definitions

Guiding. Concepts.

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    The Role of Humans

    We recognize the role that humans have played in transforming the chemical, physical and biological processes of the Earth’s atmosphere, land surfaces and oceans at an ever-increasing pace, leading a wide range of scientists to propose that we are now living in the Anthropocene, a term that is catching the public’s imagination, as it suggests that human activities have ramped up to become a geological force as significant as volcanic outbursts or meteorite impacts, and requiring us to take responsibility and action for the future of the planet and its inhabitants.

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    Humanities Innovations

    We seek alternatives to dated notions of progress that focus solely on the future. Instead, we support innovative notions of human prospects shaped equally by the past, present, and the future. We study intertwined human and ecological histories and reassess human value systems with regard to the natural world and concepts of progress and success. We recognize various ways of knowing, including place-based and indigenous knowledges, as crucial to developing new approaches to human purpose and motivation.

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    Wicked Problems

    We propose to tackle the wicked problems presented by environmental challenges with humanities methodologies and content. Such problems have multiple causes, no single answers, and no quick technological fixes, and they often result from the actions of those who must solve them.

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    Interdependencies

    We acknowledge human interdependence with the natural world and seek in our work to re- envision concepts of justice to promote planetary health and reflect humans’ interconnection with other species.

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    The Centrality of the Humanities

    We honor the long history of arts and humanities disciplines in discussions of environmental risks, losses, and opportunities. That history demands the centrality of the arts and humanities in integrative platforms for developing policy and addressing environmental issues in civil and academic life. We offer humanities-based practices that nurture collaboration and tap the creative potential of uncertainty in new collaborations among humanists and engineers, business leaders, government officials, and scientists.

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    Environmental Literacy

    We consider environmental literacy, including knowledge of non-Western environmental precepts and practices, key to the broader objectives of the Humanities for the Environment initiatives. We ask that such literacy be required at all levels of education.

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    Scholarly Outcomes and Resources

    The Humanities for the Environment international collaboration has produced scalable and replicable research and pedagogical projects as well as books, articles, and conferences that promote environmental humanities methodologies and content.