The environmental humanities is an interdisciplinary field that explores issues that have typically been approached through the lens of the sciences or public policy and considers them in a humanities context where they often find added depth and focus. As the National Humanities Center convenes an international summit, Beyond Despair: Theory and Practice in the Environmental Humanities, we’ve gathered some contributions which illuminate the intersecting lines of inquiry at the heart of environmental humanities.

For activist Terry Tempest Williams, Rachel Carson’s scientific cri de coeur Silent Spring catalyzed a lifetime of environmental advocacy. A mountain in Ecuador, seen in the presence of a symphony recording, exemplified the sublime for a student traveling with her family. For a young woman grappling with the loss of a family member, Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey’s writings on Hurricane Katrina—a different type of catastrophe—offered solace.

How do the humanities shape the way you conceptualize the environment? How does the environment shape the way you see the humanities? In the midst of environmental crises, how can the humanities help us find paths forward and move beyond despair?