- IntroductionThe HfE Project and Beyond: New Constellations of Practice in the Environmental and Digital Humanities
Since the publication of "The Future We Want," the outcome document of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (dubbed Rio+20),1 there has been growing infrastructural support and funding for curricular innovation and programming in the environmental humanities.2 International researchers are increasingly advocating for the integration of humanities insights into codesigned and coproduced knowledge about anthropogenically caused change (Bai et al. 2015, 10; Hartman 2015; Nye et al. 2013). But what forms will integrated or transdisciplinary codesigned research take? Can the humanities (which typically are characterized as weakly tooled to address social and environmental crises) catalyze imagination of new ideas, narratives, frameworks, alternatives, demands, and projects that will enable people to envision plausibly different, even livable, futures (Adamson 2015, 139)? Most articles and white papers calling for integration of the humanities into global environmental-change sciences suggest how far we have come in advocating successfully for the value of the humanities. Still, the argument of many of these position papers often starts from embedded assumptions that take the form of statements such as "We need to begin now to incorporate the insights of the humanities" (Bai et al. 2015).
This special issue of Resilience, "The Green Humanities Lab," will report and reflect on an ambitious Andrew W. Mellon–funded project called Humanities for the Environment, or HfE, which took [End Page 1] place between 2013 and 2015. Most of the contributors to this issue collaborated together as part of an HfE steering committee based at Arizona State University (ASU), while other contributors are part of a larger international EcoDH (ecological digital humanities) network. Each article in this issue discusses projects or initiatives the authors have been working on for two years or more. All of us are excited to be stepping out of the shade, so to speak, to illustrate that calls for what Steven Hartman and others have called integrated environmental humanities or integrated codesigned research are being creatively and generatively answered by expanding and increasingly well-organized groups of humanists (Hartman 2015). Hartman's collaboration with Anders Birgersson and Peter Norrman on the highly innovative Bifrost Project, an arts-research intervention to bring "hundreds, if not thousands of artists, writers, scientists, educators, community leaders and activists" together to "educate the public on climate change," is only one of the most developed of these arts-media initiatives (Birgersson, Hartman, and Norrman 2015).
The steering committee that collaboratively developed the HfE project included nine environmental humanists from ASU and nine from other universities throughout the US and Canada.3 Some are artists, many have long been involved in establishing the environmental humanities, some are new to the field, some have been piloting digital humanities labs and projects, and one is a Nobel Prize–winning member of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Most members of this steering committee have been networking for over a decade through the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, the American Society of Environmental History, and the Environment and Culture Caucus of the American Studies Association. Many had also networked previously through Mellon Foundation grants including one at the University of California, Davis, that brought many of the members of the steering committee together for Davis's Initiative on Environments and Societies.4 Through these associations and others, the steering committee brought a wealth of public humanities and collaborative experience in environmental justice and sustainability community outreach to their work at ASU.5
Having been funded by the Mellon Foundation, the HfE project at ASU was guided by Mellon's persistent defense of the value of the humanities and by its consistent encouragement of "scholars and institutions [End Page 2] to experiment and adapt" (Howard 2014, 4). Members of the steering committee were aware that a high percentage of Mellon dollars have been granted to support the environmental and digital humanities and to make project outcomes "openly available" (Howard 2014, 9, 10–11). With this in mind, the steering committee saw their charge as piloting experimental EcoDH projects...