Humanities majors cannot save the world from environmental disaster, but neither can scientists.
Alone, no sector of learning has knowledge or resources to develop the kinds of creative and comprehensive solutions needed to solve the world’s ecological problems.
We appreciate that UC Santa Cruz has some interdisciplinary courses and programs. We hope that this is not the end of progress, but rather the beginning of providing more programs that will give students the well-rounded edge needed to fully understand and make a difference in green-related issues.
A recent study at the Harvard School of Public Health found that rising summer temperature variabilities could result in more than 10,000 added deaths per year, with a disproportionate amount of those deaths being among African Americans and the elderly.
This is a perfect example of a problem that requires knowledge from both scientific and humanistic disciplines — environmental science, anthropology, sociology, history, and public health — in order to understand and solve such a problem.
Cultivating interdisciplinary programs geared towards teaching real-world environmental problem-solving skills would benefit not only society, but also the planet we live on. Some UCSC faculty members have been discussing this issue and are looking to create solutions.
In an interview with City on a Hill Press conducted last fall, Susan Gillman, a UCSC literature professor on the Academic Senate, said that the senate is talking about how to best develop and maintain interdepartmental programs on campus. They want to develop these programs across emphases and in the larger context of past and present programs such as American studies and environmental studies.
“Lots of people don’t even realize the interdisciplinary [aspect] of science and engineering,”Gillman said.
One such major Gillman referred to was environmental studies, a great example of a successful interdisciplinary program. The major combines science courses with those in anthropology and other disciplines. Even within the art major there is collaboration with the sciences in courses like “Public Art II,” which teams up artists with biological studies majors to create projects about the watershed and redwood forests on UCSC’s greenhouses.
But although these classes are offered to some, they are inaccessible to the student body at large. Enrollment is often limited to those in the major, and many programs, like environmental studies, don’t offer a minor.
We are fortunate at UCSC to be a university in a forest. To ensure generations to come can enjoy this same privilege, we need to start learning to look at ecological problems in a new way; we need to be looking from all angles.