Teaching Sustainability via the Environmental Humanities: Studying Water, Studying Ourselves

By Todd LeVasseur

The dawning anthropocene requires innovation and organizational change across all types of institutions, including in higher education. One area where innovation can occur is in curricula building, and the offering of pertinent classes for sustainability education. This paper approaches sustainability education within the classroom from the perspective of the environmental humanities, focusing especially on the discipline of religion and nature/ecology. Scholarly tools from these domains provide teaching and research opportunities to help build on-campus and campus-community sustainability networks and initiatives. Three readings are analyzed to explore how teaching about sustainability via the environmental humanities is an integral part of campus sustainability initiatives, both in the classroom, in the community, and with facilities. The readings are international in scope and focus on water resource management. It is argued that exposing students to how different cultures conceive of and thus manage the natural world, and specifically fresh water, presents an opportunity for critical reflection and such reflection can help generate best teaching practices for sustainability education. Furthermore, teaching about sustainability via the environmental humanities can allow for interdisciplinary networks to be forged, thus helping higher educational institutions realize their mission and value statements.

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