After some wonderfully galvanising encounters in late 2021, Digital Humanities Climate Coalition is now officially a thing. It’s a collaborative and cross-institutional initiative focused on what DH researchers (broadly construed) can do in times of climate crisis and climate transition, especially understanding and improving the environmental impact of DH research. Participants are based at HE institutions and DH Centres across the UK, Ireland, and Northern Europe. There are three working groups doing things over the course of 2022, plus a reading group. If you’d like to find out more or get involved, you can do so here.
How do we reconcile the work (and play) of the digital humanities with the transition to a net zero carbon economy, while also addressing many other urgent and interconnected environmental issues that confront the world today? We don’t have all the answers, but we’re determined to work at the forefront of responsible and imaginative environmental practice in the digital humanities. We know that this means broad sharing of insights, practices, and perspectives. Whoever you are, if you’d like a free copy of the SHL Environmental Strategy 2020, get in touch.
Today we are launching the Sussex Humanities Lab Environmental Strategy.
This document sets out our current thinking on how SHL stands in relation to the global environmental emergency, and to the demanding and necessary target, set by the current UK government, of achieving net zero carbon by 2050.
It affirms our commitment to explore and mitigate the carbon intensity and ecological impact of our core Digital Humanities work, despite the many uncertainties this entails. Our work can contribute to global heating and ecological destruction, and it can contribute to mitigation and resilience.
It also affirms our commitment to continue to advocate for the wider system change necessary across society, and where relevant, to use our specific expertise to support and to scrutinise, to help ensure that the perspectives of the Digital Humanities are included in these complex transitions.
We believe that these ambitions go hand-in-hand with the small everyday actions that prefigure ecological sustainability. Here’s a snippet from one of the appendices, ‘In Praise of Smaller Actions’:
Smaller actions can demonstrate and cultivate a practical willingness to make changes in our everyday lives. Because the bigger changes of net zero will demand many such changes, it is important that we explore what such changes feel like, and the ripple effects they may have. It is important that we cultivate narratives, skills, and ways of thinking around these changes, so we know what to embrace, what to resist, and what to re-imagine. When done creatively and reflectively, those smaller actions can even be a kind of practice-led research into climate sustainability and climate resilience. They can be ‘cognitive’: they are a way of finding things out, and a form of knowledge in themselves.
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This document is a reference point for all Sussex Humanities Lab Members and Associates. But we also hope it will be a way of making connections with the wider world.
The Sussex Humanities Lab includes some STEM expertise, and we frequently collaborate with STEM researchers, including environmental scientists. Our members also include researchers in the environmental humanities. However, we are not the experts on environmental science, policy, or emergency. The SHL Environmental Strategy is a living document which gives current estimation of the situation we are facing. We welcome qualifications, criticisms, and suggested revisions.
We also welcome opportunities to build our own capacity, and to explore future research collaboration with academics and non-academic partners. The Sussex Humanities Lab has an extensive portfolio of externally funded projects, which we continually look to expand. We also host visiting researchers to run seminars and workshops, and welcome enquiries from prospective doctoral students and Visiting Fellows. As set out in more detail in the document, we would be especially interested to hear from those who are working on, or who have an interest in, the following:
- Covid-19, digital technology, and the environment
- The materiality of the digital, including the perceived ethereality of the digital
- Climate futures in culture, policy, and science
- Carbon coloniality
- Critical resilience
- The politics and cultures of offsetting
- The embodiment of academic research and collaboration
- Negative emissions and other climate technology
- Agonistic climate action
Here’s one last snippet:
The world has started to burn. There have been some interesting debates about the usefulness about this apocalyptic idiom: does it really help to convert the urgency of our situation into practical action? But setting aside the complex emotional implications of mentioning it, the world has actually started to burn: the effects of global heating are already being felt around the world through heatwaves, wildfires, drought and famine, as well as wildlife extinction, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and extreme weather events such as storms and flooding. Enormous economic damage, human displacement, and deaths attributable to climate change are no longer mere forecasts: they are daily news. These are tragedies, not omens.