After Vilnius

The Lithuanian EU Presidency’s Conference on Horizons for Social Sciences and Humanities concluded two short days ago in Vilnius, Lithuania. The leaders and the many student volunteers of Mykolas Romeris University were gracious hosts for the hundreds of researchers, research administrators, and European Commission representatives who descended on their fair city. Those of us who were present from the European Environmental Humanities Alliance noted that the discourse of involving SSH at the outset of funding research programs to address society’s grand challenges affirmed with the transdisciplinary, open-spirited intellectual enterprise of EH researchers in Europe.

Indeed, the Science Europe publication “Humanities in the Societal Challenges,” released to coincide with the conference, also reflects the connection of Environmental Humanities with responsiveness to Europe’s grand challenges. The report includes twelve concrete cases of research that address issues such as green transport, histories of climate migration, and analysis of the unintended consequences of river management. It is fair to describe seven of the twelve as “Environmental Humanities” projects, with lateral connections between EH and others via issues of justice, health disparities, and designing the built environment.

How will we realize livable environmental futures, beyond the horizon of 2020?

This is not a question that can be answered solely by technology and economy. How we transform environment and society is equally and fundamentally a question of values, narratives, practices, and imagination.

The symbolic power of the Vilnius Declaration comes from its crystallization of the principles of openness and commitment necessary for realizing the “value and benefits of integrating Social Sciences and Humanities” into Horizon 2020. The Declaration is also a call to the Humanities to be bold enough to propose and join major collaborative projects of synthesis.

After Vilnius, the European Environmental Humanities Alliance has a mandate for its socially-responsible, transdisciplinary paradigm. We also have a more urgent awareness of our need to represent at the European level our expertise and practical value.

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