Whenever people begin to talk about sustainability, a few well-worn narratives always seem to dominate the conversation: namely those of science and economics. But if you look back over the history of environmentalism, many of the strongest (and often first) voices came from the humanities. Think of the poet-philosophers, the artists, and the writers who influenced our cultural beliefs about the environment or our obligations to it. Today, the arts and humanities can offer the insight necessary to question the rhetoric and de facto assumptions that we use when discussing sustainability. When you get right down to it, the word “sustainable” itself can be a pretty nebulous idea in need of clarification. By approaching the subject of sustainability from a new angle, driven by the logic of other disciplines, perhaps we can begin to envision creative solutions to the problems that have stymied our past efforts.
This belief in the power of the humanities is the impetus behind the Portland Center for the Public Humanities. Fortunately for our local community, the first event in their new series on sustainability will focus on food. On Tuesday, March 3, Portland State University, through their Humanities Sustainability Research Project, will bring together three diverse individuals to discuss the future of food. Multi-faceted artist and educator, Linda K. Johnson will share the stage with Lois Leveen of the ethical food blog, The Jew and the Carrot, and author and PSU professor, Dr. Lisa Weasel. This approach is just the way we like our discussions: with a healthy dose of cross-disciplinary pollination. The conversation is bound to be stimulating.
Keep an eye out for more events in the series (”Clothing” and “Shelter” will be the next topics) and for an upcoming conference:
In addition to two other events in April, the program will culminate on May 14-17 with a four-day national conference, “Understanding Sustainability,” that will unite scholars, artists, business people, food growers, conservationists, and the general public to explore, debate, and embrace topics within sustainable culture.
For more information, you can visit PSU’s Humanities Sustainability Research Project.