Environmental Humanities

An active interest in where environmentalism and the humanities overlap.


Visual Arts


Mason Inman– science journalist: Scientific American, National Geographic, San Francisco Chronicle. Author of Oracle of Oil (Norton, 2015).

Mason successfully raised funds on the journalism crowdfunding site Beacon Reader to dig into data and present stunning visual representations of the Bakken shale field’s current drilling fluctuations.

*Educational Opportunities: data analysis; crowdfunding; cartography; geography


The Center for Land Use Interpretation has set up a fascinating field station on the Buffalo Bayou River in Houston, Texas. The public is invited to tour the river by boat before ending in a field station near a scrap yard, where guests enter a mobile trailer exhibit space to sit on a couch and view a “Houston Petrochemicalscape Landscan Video” in which helicopter video shows the petrochemical industries on Houston’s Shipping Channel.

In Portland, groups like the Oregon chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, with their Ross Island Vision Plan page, or the Willamette River Human Access Project could one day tell similar stories.

*Educational Opportunities: eco-tourism; narrative methods; local history; outdoor education, including habitat restoration and urban forestation

Sean Gallagher– from his Reforestation in China in Time Magazine to his onEarth piece Made in Vietnam, Sean is a British photographer who has been in Asia for over a decade now. Using his background in photographic storytelling, Sean aims to communicate stories and conceptualize ideas that utilize the strength of combining video stills, video and audio. His interest is primarily environmental and social issues across Asia.

*Educational Opportunities: environmental photography; innovative media; globalization; educational outreach


Aftermass: Bicycling in a Post-Critical Mass Portland

Aftermass is the first feature documentary to explore the events, people, politics, and social changes that led to Portland becoming a major bicycle city in the United States. Director and local Microcosm Publishing editor Joe Biel has provided helpful information via email for various artistic outlets concerning bicycle infrastructure and thought.

*Educational Opportunities: local publishing; filmmaking; bicycle planning; comic books

Scrappers Documentary

Roger Ebert Journal voted this 2010 film “best documentary.” The Chicago filmmakers followed two scrap truck drivers through the city’s labyrinthine alleyways, interviewed family and scrap yard owners, examining the global implications and economics of recycled metal. The filmmakers have currently created the Scrappers Film Group, a “socially motivated” film production team.

*Educational Opportunities: socially conscious production industry; filmmaking; globalization (I had great results when teaching this documentary at Chicago City Colleges)


Chris Jordan– Environmental action photographic artist, interested in creating portraits of global mass culture. Chris’ website currently has a zoom function wherein viewers move from a familiar or calming image, to close-ups of thousands of plastic bags depicting various amounts of general consumer practices.

*Educational Opportunities: photography; ecoliteracy; painting; New Topography and Robert Adams studies; genetic labeling

Painting / Installation

Orlo and the Bear Deluxe Magazine– nonprofit that explores environmental issues through creative arts. With the support of Neighbors West-Northwest and Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement, Orlo has developed Art Boxes located throughout Northwest Portland and its environs. The plain metal boxes are painted by local artists to reflect a neighborhood theme and then located at strategic intersections.

*Educational Opportunities: painting; regional studies; visual storytelling; land use opportunity

Buster Simpson– Seattle artist focused on design and the environment, created the mixed use bike corral on N Dekum Street in Portland. The Dekum bike corral is both a bike parking area as well as a sculptural installation and stormwater management system.

*Educational Opportunities: public art; creative stormwater management; bicycle services; urban design; sculpture

Sculpture / Found Art

GLEAN is a partnership between Recology, crackedpots, an environmental arts organization, and Metro, the regional government that guides the region’s garbage and recycling systems.

Every year artists are chosen by a jury of local arts and environmental professionals to help promote new ways of thinking about conserving resources, art and the environment. Each artist receives a stipend and privileges for six months to scavenge discarded materials at Metro Central transfer station in Northwest Portland. The program culminates with a formal exhibition in the fall at Disjecta Gallery.

Sarah Wolf Newlands– PSU University Studies, former GLEAN participant. Sarah’s artwork brings together the language of formal abstraction with commonplace everyday things, using repetition and process as methods of transformation. Sarah and I are in touch via email, and will be meeting to discuss her current work soon. See this video for an explanation of Sarah’s art.

*Educational Opportunities: design; creative reuse; environmental education

Audio Arts

Gordon Hempton– Washington-state based artist Gordon has made a name for himself taking listeners on aural journeys across various geographical spaces. In his 2010 book, One Square Inch of Silence, Hempton explored the idea that silence was one of our nation’s fastest-disappearing resource. Gordon records and preserves ‘silence’ in all its variety, before queit terrestrial soundscapes vanish in the din of modern living.

His December 2014 NPR, On Being piece The Last Quiet Places could be a great creative-pedagogical resource.

*Educational Opportunities: audio ecology; regional studies; soundscape design

Soundscape: The Journal of Acoustic Ecology– a collection of soundscapes gathered since 1993 by the World Forum for Acoustic Energy. The WFAE share a common dedication to the study of the acoustic environment. These studies in part study the relational acoustics of habitats, landscapes, and buildings.

*Educational Opportunities: audio ecology; regional studies; soundscape design; interactive journaling

Mitchell Thomashow– an educator and consultant promoting “ecological awareness, sustainable living, creative learning, improvisational thinking, social networking, and organizational excellence.” His 2005 syllabus “Music and Nature” (available upon request) is another good guide for using sound as a mode of deepening ecological awareness.

(avenues to explore:  a found sound blog; podcasts; open microphone events; live stream readings/interviews/shows; eco-punk; radio)

Literary Arts

(I have numerous books, essays and poems related to environmental thought, all available upon request. I will limit this section to relevant curriculum.)


Resilience– A journal of the environmental humanities, Resilience is an example of a smart journal of the environmental humanities. Author (Living Oil, Oxford University Press, 2014) and Oregon State English professor Stephanie LeMenager, who has been integral in the evolution of my thinking on the environmental humanities, is on the Resilience editorial board. The journal blends professional scholarship with public contributions.

Their editorial board is “interested in how to generate narratives of sustainability across humanities disciplines; in narratives produced through or around objects, geographic spaces, information cultures, political agendas, and social movements central to environmental practices and ideas; in how narratives about environmental practices and ideas circulate globally and locally, and in how investigating them can reveal points of shared commitment or impasses.”

*Educational Opportunities: creative non-fiction; natural and social science literature; public writing; communications


Bishupal Limbu– Assistant English Professor at PSU since 2010.

Bishupal has been influential in deepening my background in the environmental humanities. I approached Bishupal with a potential course syllabus in the fall, as he was teaching the PSU English environmental hybrid course that term, with writings from John Muir, Annie Dillard and John McPhee among others. Bishupal expanded my collection to include stories of globalization, cosmopolitanism as well as writings on ethics and human rights issues as they relate to ecological issues. Bishupal also introduced me to the Institute of Sustainable Solutions.

Thomas Mason– University of Oregon, has a well organized environmental humanities course syllabus here. The course moves through traditional modes of human-nature thought, on up through western vs. non-western perceptions of human-nature relations, to 20th century environmental issues including climate change, and beyond.

*Educational Opportunities: literature; essay writing; poetry; critical thinking; political ecology

Joni Adamson– Professor of English at Arizona State University.

Joni, author of the upcoming Keywords for Environmental Studies (NYU Press 2015), has been helpful via email, a great contact who has given advice on the more practical sides of an environmental humanities certificate. She has stressed the importance of internships when crossing English departments with the outside environmental-minded world.

*Educational Opportunities: internship journaling-blogging; grant writing for sustainability


Urban Gleaners is nonprofit I volunteer for as both a farm gleaner as well as food re-packer. Their mission is to alleviate hunger by rescuing edible surplus food that would otherwise be thrown away and delivering it to agencies that feed the hungry. UG would be a great company for PSU to team up with for internships or educational courses; food to school programs; farmers market education; nutritional studies; food industry supply- logistics

Cropmobster– featured in Time, PBS, and NPR, this brilliant crowdfunding app has taken an Urban Gleaners-like program into the digital realm.

“By leveraging social media,” their mission statement in part reads, “and instant alerts we’re able to spread the word quickly about local food excess and surplus from any supplier in the food chain, get healthy food to those in need, help local businesses recover costs, prevent food waste and connect our community in new and fun ways.” They are still in the Bay Area, though one could share their ideas to make mobile PSU’s Switchboard.

*Educational Opportunities: crowdfunding; computer programming; food sharing; outdoor education; food industry supply-logistics

Kickstand Comedy Space– Located in the basement of the Velo Cult bike shop, Kickstand is a small theater group hosting nightly comedy events. Velo itself goes beyond a bike store and into a multimedia website, group bike rides, book events, and local craft beer on tap.

As for Kickstand, I am interested in comedy as an expression of climate grief (note Louis CK’s rant on environmentalism). I recently saw a copy of David Kroodsma’s crowdfunded book The Bicycle Diaries— chronicling Kroodsma’s 21,000 mile bike trip to educate on climate change— on display while waiting to use the restroom at Kickstand, and realized that this and future spaces like it were potentially powerful spaces for environmental outreach.

*Educational Opportunities: performing arts; comedy; bicycle planning; local food movement

[As of 4-29-15 Kickstand is no longer hosting shows]

Future E.H. Research

Ancient and modern languages; eco travel writing; punk; religion; science fiction; beauty aesthetics; social science disciplines with humanities components— social justice; law; community management; wiki/open source philosophy

Sites to Study: Film4 Group— digital storytelling. Melcher Media— searching authentic storytelling methods (Upcycle pub-related)

Gillen D’Arcy Wood: Tambora: The Eruption That Changed the World



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