Art and Humanities LTER Programs Build Empathy for Nature

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Image Credit: Jaime Schirmer KNZ LTER

Do arts and humanities programs at LTER sites further the Network’s mission? Recent research posits that art-humanities-science collaborations generate empathy – and associated emotions like inspiration, awe, and wonder – for the natural world. This empathy then drives society to engage with and care more broadly about nature.

Since HJ Andrews Experimental Forest began its annual writers’ residency in 2002, 21 LTER sites have hosted arts and humanities projects and six of those have established ongoing programs, including artists’ residencies, art and ecology workshops, and performing and visual arts exhibitions. Researchers explored the value and effectiveness of these collaborations via interviews with representatives from 15 LTER sites and an audience perception survey at an LTER-hosted art show. The authors make a case for the importance of creative inquiry in ecological contexts. They argue that beyond the direct contributions arts and humanities projects make to education and scientific outreach at the sites, they also illuminate ethical questions and foster relationships between humans and natural systems.

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