The Nelson Institute's Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE) draws together faculty, staff, graduate students, and others from a wide array of disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences to investigate environmental and cultural change in the full sweep of human history.


Latest News

March 4-6, Madison:

What do we really mean when we say we study 'environments'?  The upcoming CHE Grad symposium, E is for Environment, will explore this question in the context of current research produced by graduate students from UW and across North America. Kate Brown will keynote, kicking off a weekend of events that are free and open to the public.  Visit the website to register!


Belief: Tales from Planet Earth returns to explore faith, science and environment

How does thinking about belief enrich our thinking about environment? Tales from Film Festival founder Gregg Mitman, professor of history of science, medical history and environmental studies, and festival programming director and CHE alumnus Peter Boger, recently spoke about what attendees can expect at this weekend's series of free events.

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Upcoming Events

Special Colloquium: Dr. Iain McCalman: "What Will We Do with the Anthropocene? Themes and Challenges for Australia’s Environmental Humanities"
Monday, February 15, 4:00 PM, Science Hall, 175
Iain McCalman will give a short talk and welcome discussion on the challenges and opportunities that have emerged among Australia’s Environmental Humanities scholars and institutions through the impact of the Crutzen/Stoermer thesis of 2000 that our planet has entered a new age of the Anthropocene in which humans ‘overwhelm the forces of nature’ to leave enduring impacts on the geological record. Whether or not this thesis is formally confirmed by the International Commission on Stratigraphy, Crutzen himself has pointed to the metaphorical power of the idea for making us rethink our previously assumed relations with nature. Recently, too, Professor Phil Gillard, a University of Cambridge geologist and a skeptic about the scientific usefulness of the concept, has nevertheless conceded its importance as ‘a cultural term’. There is no doubting the immense impact on the Anthropocene idea in Australia, where it has generated exciting new interdisciplinary work and intellectual and policy links and collaborations between the environmental humanities and environmental sciences at multiple levels. Professor McCalman will outline some of these developments, but at the same cite some worrying counter examples that seem to suggest that the idea of the Anthropocene can also sometimes worsen the old humanities and natural sciences divide.


Back to the Future: Teddy Roosevelt’s Anthropocene Safari
Monday, February 15, 7:30 PM, Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L160
In this talk, McCalman argues that Roosevelt’s famous African safari proved in fact to be a harbinger and agent of exactly the transformative social and environmental forces that he both regretted and extolled. Despite his lifelong disgust at ‘game butchers’ and ‘trophy hunters’, his own safari behavior savored uncomfortably of both. The eleven thousand specimens procured on his ‘science safari’ not only included several rare and endangered animal species, it also became the catalyst for a new type of commercialized safari industry that would ultimately threaten the biodiversity of the wildlife that he celebrated in newspaper articles and his million-selling book, African Games Trails. If Teddy Roosevelt journeyed back into the Pleistocene, it was as an early agent of a new and destructive Anthropocene.


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