I plan to be an environmental lawyer, and in terms of the work I want to do on the side and how to inform my work, definitely EH principals will apply. -Cindy Nguyen ’20
Major: Environmental Policy
EH Course taken: Intro to Environmental Humanities with Chris Walker
What got you interested in Environmental Humanities?
I had an opening one semester, and saw this new ES elective offering. I thought “That could be fun, I could get my literature requirement out of the way and still take an ES class.” That’s how I stumbled into it. Now after taking it my mind is much more environmental humanities focused, in the way I perceive a lot of the concepts that are thrown at me in different classes.
Have you been able to use what you learned in other environmental work?
This summer I was part of the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars in Arizona. That organization specifically focuses on diversifying the conservation movement and promoting values of justice and equity in the work that we do as conservationists. It was rooted in environmental justice principles, post-colonial conceptions of nature, which is what we talked about specifically in Intro to Environmental Humanities.
It is also about decolonizing what nature and conservation and all these ideas have been in the past. A huge theme of Environmental Humanities is interdisciplinary thinking but also this idea of interconnectedness, everything in earth is connected together and if you ruin one part you affect the whole. This ecological thinking model came up a lot this summer in almost every conversation.
The program involved a lot of field work. We would do field observations, collect data for citizen science, and we did restoration work. We travelled to national parks and national monuments to understand the federal land management system, which is super complex, and the public lands dispute. We also traveled to the Navaho and Hopi reservations and spent time there learning about traditional ecological knowledge and the environmental injustices that have happened to native populations in the Southwest.
It seems like all the work is different, some of it is more technical and some of it is more theoretical, but in terms of just recentering ourselves as to what the purpose of this work was, a lot of the literature I read from that Environmental Humanities class, I found myself sharing it with other people. If I saw that someone was unsettled thinking about how everything is connected, I’d bring up Becoming With by Kate Wright that we talked about a lot in my class. I would bring the literature that we read back to people and they would say “Oh this makes sense now, they put these emotions into words.”
Do you see Environmental Humanities in your future?
I am going to try to take another EH course before I leave. I plan to be an environmental lawyer, and in terms of the work I want to do on the side and how to inform my work, definitely these principals will apply. Actually, for my final project in Chris’s class I wrote a play exploring EH themes. It was my first time writing a play which was a weird experience, but I would love to continue that. A lot of EH work is also about narrative justice and how we tell stories correctly and who gets to tell a story, and that was really impactful for me as someone who loves telling stories and writing and never really gets the chance to do it in my major. I thought I could combine both of my passions in the future if I find myself in the time and space where I am allowed to write.
What we learn about the environment is usually so broad and theoretical; it’s really hard to get people to feel emotionally connected to the landscape sometimes and it seems that is the way to go, if you can get people to feel like they really care about a place or really care about an animal, they’re more likely to see your side.