It gives me pleasure to share the news that I’ve been named the Steven Rubenstein Professor for Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont. The position provides some teaching release and a budget enabling me to work on my proposed project of developing a new center for eco-arts, media, and culture (or something of the sort), to be based here at the university.
While it’s an outgrowth of things we have been doing for a while here (such as the recent Sixth Extinction Howl), the center is a few years away, and its ultimate form will be dependent on various contingencies. But I take the committee’s decision as welcome recognition that the arts and humanities are — and ought to be — central to environmental scholarship and action today. Those of us in the environmental humanities have long argued that, but its recognition in a school of “environment and natural resources” is unusual.
There’s irony in that term “natural resources” for me. I learned to be skeptical of the very idea since my graduate studies with John Livingston (author of The Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation and Rogue Primate) and Neil Evernden (The Natural Alien and The Social Creation of Nature) at York University in the late 1980s. Both were sharply critical to the ideology of “resourcism” that they saw as underpinning too much of mainstream environmentalism, not to mention the rest of society. While ecocritical discourse has evolved considerably since those days, that critique has stayed with me.
But names are just names, and those who confuse them for actions have always had a tough argument to sell (though poststructuralism has tried, with some success).
Meanwhile, I am on sabbatical this year and, in addition to a heavy writing schedule, have a few research trips and several speaking engagements ahead of me, including in Stockholm (the Stories for the Anthropocene Festival), the University of Amsterdam, Kyїv and Lviv in Ukraine (the Visual Culture Research Center, and Ukrainian Catholic University), Morocco, Taiwan, Switzerland, and others (including hopefully next summer’s Whitehead conference in the Azores). Maybe even see some of you somewhere along the way…
As Robert Heinlein once put it, “Have space suit, will travel.” Will even speak, for a penny or two.