Columbia University

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Climate Humanities

Climate Humanities at Columbia
August 2021

The Climate Humanities initiative was begun in fall 2020 by Sarah Cole, the Dean of Humanities, along with a small group of faculty with knowledge of this area. Our initial goal was to aid the development of the Columbia Climate School, developing a number of principles and rubrics to share with the CCS’s founding committees, participating in the CCS’s early discussions, and offering suggestions for hiring priorities. Discovering that Climate Humanities is an area of great vitality at Columbia and one in which there is tremendous faculty and student interest, the Division of Humanities has moved toward a more full-blown initiative. 

Climate Humanities Course Development Grants

The Climate Humanities Initiative at Columbia University recently awarded funding to ten faculty members or groups to support the development of undergraduate courses to be taught during the 2022-23 or 2023-24 academic years.  These courses will look at the climate crisis in and through the humanities or humanistic social sciences, or any partnership that brings together climate science with these areas of study.  

Congratulations to all awardees:

As an organizing concept, Climate Humanities is broad and encompassing: any work inwhich the climate crisis is addressed in and through the humanistic disciplines, or any partnership that brings together climate science with our areas of study, is warmly included under our rubric. Up to now, our meetings have included faculty from Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Arts, and Humanities in the A&S, and from a range of schools at Columbia beyond A&S.

Climate Humanities at Columbia consists of these current and future projects:

  • The maintenance of an informal steering committee to work with the CCS and with other units on campus as we press forward with a variety of projects. Partnership is the core idea. We work closely with groups such as the Center for Science and Society, the CCS, and other smaller/other/newer collective efforts.
  • Bringing together and acting as a hub for the many individual and group projects already underway and as they form. This includes maintaining a robust list of people and groups working in this area, as teachers, scholars and conveners; compiling and updating a list of classes taught in this field (at Columbia and Barnard); putting people in touch in creative ways; supporting these networks, affiliations, and conversations.
  • Sponsoring events, including regular, informal talks and panels of our own faculty; inviting visiting scholars; supporting creative pedagogy in this area; and convening conversations among our faculty and students about our plans, agendas, and our collective work.
  • Helping to develop curriculum in this area, possibly including a Climate Humanities major or graduate certificate.
  • Acting as an engaged interlocutor with the CCS as it is built over the next several years.
  • Working collaboratively with the CCS and other units as they consider new hires in this area.
  • Educating broadly, within Columbia and beyond, on the meaning and value of humanistic thought as we confront the climate crisis. One thing we know for sure: there will be no way to handle our already-changing world without the expressive, narrative, historical, and critical work of the Humanities.

This is an ongoing project, which will change and shift in accordance with conditions, both externally and within the structures of Columbia. Our institutional values are articulated in our steering committee’s Climate Humanities statement, shared with the CCS in January 2021.

The initial steering committee consisted of these faculty members; rotation on and off the committee is expected:

Climate Humanities at Columbia is administered by Jessica Lilien, the Director of Decanal Affairs in the Division of Humanities in the A&S.