Environmental Humanities

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The natural world has consistently served as an inspiration for writers, artists and liberal arts scholars, while specific fields combining the environment and humanities – such as environmental history – provide important lessons from the past and insights for the future. By including Environmental Humanities as a topic area in the Encyclopedia of Earth, we provide content that provokes both a larger perspective and introspection about the relationship between humans and the natural systems we depend upon and interact with on a daily basis.

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Roads, highways, and ecosystems Lead Author: John Stilgoe (other articles) Content Partners: National Humanities Center (other articles) and TeacherServe (other articles) Article Topics: Transportation This article has been reviewed and approved by the following Topic Editor: Brian Black (other articles) EDITOR'S NOTE: This entry was originally published as "Roads, Highways and Ecosystems" in the series "Nature Transformed: The Environment in American History," developed by the National Humanities Center and TeacherServe. Citations should be based on the original essay. In the United States, formal education begins on the road, often along the city street. Nowadays for the bulkof students away from downtown urban America, it begins aboard the yellow school bus collecting children bound for the first day of kindergarten. Before most children encounter principals and teachers,... More »

Astronomy of Christmas The astronomy of Christmas is chiefly centered around verifiable celestial events that occurred at or near the time of birth of Jesus. Astromers have expended considerable research on reconstructing movements of planets, stars and comets that could best explain Biblical accounts of the era. The Christian New Testament Gospel of Matthew, includes description of three "Maji" from the east who follow the Star of Bethlehem to the location where they find Jesus shortly after his birth. For example, the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 2, verse 1 of the New International Version of the Bible gives: After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." Movements of celestial bodies in this era... More »

Limitations of markets There are a number of ways in which economic theory affects both the study and the practice of business. Economic theories may be offered to explain how businesses operate; students and teachers of business generally ignore some of the less realistic portions of these explanations, while making use of the more practical aspects. Economic theories are also used as justification for government policies that regulate or otherwise affect business. There is an especially relevant part of economic theory that describes how socially optimal results can come about through perfect markets that allocate resources according to society’s most preferred uses. This theory is important because it is the theoretic underpinning for policies and prescriptions that have significantly shaped the modern world. Recommendations to reduce trade restrictions; to privatize utilities, prisons, or water... More »

Ecological footprint (Environmental Humanities) Ecological Footprint is defined as a resource accounting framework for measuring human demand on the biosphere. The human economy is embedded in the biosphere and is entirely dependent on its ecological services. In consuming nature’s products and services, people have an impact on the Earth. But since nature has the ability to renew, it can cope with human demand as long as this demand stays within the regenerative capacity of the biosphere. Ecological Footprint accounting documents the extent to which human economies stay within the regenerative capacity of the planet, and who uses which portion of this capacity. They answer the research question of how much of the regenerative capacity of the biosphere is occupied by a given human activity. Such biophysical resource accounting is possible because resources and waste flows can be tracked, and most of these flows can be... More »

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Post-Normal Science (Environmental Humanities) Post-Normal Science (PNS) is a new conception of the management of complex science-related issues. It focuses on aspects of problem-solving that tend to be neglected in traditional accounts of scientific practice: uncertainty, value loading, and a plurality of legitimate perspectives. PNS considers these elements as integral to science. By their inclusion in the framing of complex issues, PNS is able to provide a coherent framework for an extended participation in decision-making, based on the new tasks of quality assurance. The shift to a post-normal mode is a critical change. The approach used by normal science to manage complex social and biophysical systems as if they were simple scientific exercises has brought us to our present mixture of intellectual triumph and socio-ecological peril. The ideas and concepts belonging to the umbrella of PNS witness the emergence of new... More »