Human/Nature, the humanities theme for 2015-16, is a year-long, campus-wide initiative designed to foster interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration.


“Is it possible that we are living in a post-natural world,” wondered writer Bill McKibben in an essay for the photography journal Aperture in 1998. After all, human beings have altered the world they live in so much that the timing of seasons has changed, severe storms grow worse and occur more often, and fossil fuels, which have been the direct and indirect cause of these alterations to our world, have become depleted to the point that the preciousness of oil causes wars and environmental destruction. McKibben’s musings are a warning shot from 15 years ago. Conditions have only grown worse.

This theme will reflect upon nature, the built environment, and the ways in which our relationship to the natural world has shaped human existence. Across the humanities this theme will enable us to examine our relationship to nature from antiquity to the present. The social and natural sciences, will explore the connections between human actions and changes to our planet. Ultimately, Human/Nature will initiate a conversation among the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences considering ourselves and the spaces we inhabit: those that nourish us, inspire us, and challenge us.

“Some speak of a return to nature. I wonder where they could have been .” —Frederick Sommer

“The whole of nature is a metaphor of the human mind.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

The graphic identifier for the Center’s 2015-16 Humanities Theme, Human/ Nature, is taken from the wonderful James McNeill Whistler, Chelsea in Ice, 1864 Oil on canvas, 17 3/4 in. x 24 in. Colby College Museum of Art, The Lunder Collection, 2013.293.