What is Gained and Lost in Translation?

Communication within and Beyond the Environmental Humanities

What is "environmental humanities"? It is an interdisciplinary collaboration that extends within and beyond academia. It is the opportunity to bring diverse perspectives and methods to bear on environmental problems. When translating scholarly work from the academy to the general public, what gets lost in translation, and what is gained? If a scholar uses the term “nature based strategies”, what does that mean to a wider audience? If a research subject says “I can't grow my crops this season”, what does that mean for the researcher? Environmental humanities is the bridge that closes the gap between what people think and feel, regardless of whether they live and work out in the field or within the brick walls of the library.


With this in mind, the PPEH fellows conducted a group experiment. After getting into pairs, we each wrote a short description of our research projects and read them aloud to our partners. Next, we repeated the same exercise as if we were writing for a wider public, such as the readership of the New York Times. Finally, each pair wrote a short blog post together reflecting on what we had learned. The result is a four-part series on what is gained and lost in translation across fields within the environmental humanities.