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Hardcover | $90.00 X | £74.95 | 248 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 9 b&w illus. | September 2017 | ISBN: 9780262036764
Paperback | $27.00 Short | £21.95 | 248 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 9 b&w illus. | September 2017 | ISBN: 9780262534208
eBook | $19.00 Short | October 2017 | ISBN: 9780262342285
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The Environmental Humanities

A Critical Introduction


The emergence of the environmental humanities as an academic discipline early in the twenty-first century reflects the growing conviction that environmental problems cannot be solved by science and technology alone. This book offers a concise overview of this new multidisciplinary field, presenting concepts, issues, current research, concrete examples, and case studies. Robert Emmett and David Nye show how humanists, by offering constructive knowledge as well as negative critique, can improve our understanding of such environmental problems as global warming, species extinction, and over-consumption of the earth’s resources. They trace the genealogy of environmental humanities from European, Australian, and American initiatives, also showing its cross-pollination by postcolonial and feminist theories.

Emmett and Nye consider a concept of place not synonymous with localism, the risks of ecotourism, and the cultivation of wild areas. They discuss the decoupling of energy use and progress, and point to OECD countries for examples of sustainable development. They explain the potential for science to do both good and harm, examine dark visions of planetary collapse, and describe more positive possibilities—alternative practices, including localization and degrowth. Finally, they examine the theoretical impact of new materialism, feminism, postcolonial criticism, animal studies, and queer ecology on the environmental humanities.

About the Authors

Robert Emmett is Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Roanoke College and author of Cultivating Environmental Justice: A Literary History of U.S. Garden Writing.

David E. Nye, who was knighted by the Danish Queen in 2013, is Senior Research Fellow at the Charles Babbage Institute and the History of Science and Technology program at the University of Minnesota and Professor of American Studies at the University of Southern Denmark. His eight other books published by the MIT Press include Electrifying America and When the Lights Went Out: A History of American Blackouts. His awards include the Leonardo da Vinci Medal (2005).


“This book is the best introduction to a dynamic field. It is perfect for fomenting lively classroom discussion of so many of this era’s essential issues: climate change, animal sentience, environmental justice, digital and analog forms of representing the environment, the Anthropocene, food and water security, urban futures, and sustainable energy. The writing is conceptually informed, yet lucid and grounded throughout by international and interdisciplinary examples. A tour de force.”
Rob Nixon, Barron Family Professor in Humanities and Environment, Princeton University; author of Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor
“Just as Emma Marris synthesized the recent work of conservation biologists in their search for novel solutions to life in the Anthropocene, so too have Emmett and Nye given us an elegant meditation on two decades of work by environmental scholars of the humanities. More than a literature review, the book makes a convincing case, for all those who need it, that our futures are contingent on the non-perfunctory understanding and appreciation for the social and cultural values that undergird our environmental problems as well as the solutions.”
Gary Kroll, Professor of History at SUNY Plattsburgh; author of America's Ocean Wilderness
“In this neat, compact, yet very rich volume Robert Emmett and David Nye demonstrate that the environmental humanities is a cross-cutting intellectual adventure that will not only stimulate knowledge and catalyze the humanities but will also affect the transition to sustainable societies. It is an excellent introduction to a vibrant field which is too vast for anyone to fully fathom. They have selected well, they write accessibly, their judgment is sound.”
Sverker Sörlin, Professor of Environmental History, Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, KTH Royal Institute of Technology