By Dr. Timothy Carter
Those of us working in the STEM fields know that it is a crowded space, particularly in the sciences such as biology, chemistry and the geosciences. The typical response to this has been to ultra- specialize into zillions of subfields…urban ecology is where I’ve ended up. But as Wendell Berry says, “the disease of modern character is specialization”.
And understanding is merely the first step. A critical role that STEM/humanities collaborations can serve is to holistically develop answers to pressing questions facing humanity. The more we can step out of our crowded spaces and into these collaborative spaces, the greater the potential to create successful and creative solutions.By connecting STEM fields to the humanities, however, shows great promise as an alternative response. A good example of what this looks like an initiative spearheaded by Dr. Jason Kelly, director of the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute, entitled “Rivers of the Anthropocene” (rivers.iupui.edu). This international project brings together researchers from both STEM and humanities disciplines to discuss the relationships between humans and their river environments with a goal of producing “sustainable solutions to the complex environmental problems that we face in the 21st century.” The global water system can only be truly understood when specialists from physical science, ecology, and biological sciences engage with historians, theologians, and anthropologists (among others). Disciplinary hats will be hung at the door at this innovative conference on Jan. 23 -25, 2014 in Indianapolis.
Dr. Timothy Carter is the director of the Center for Urban Ecology (CUE) at Butler University. The CUE builds creative engagement projects within the urban environment of Indianapolis.