2024 Environmental Humanities Grant Recipients


Perceptions of Light in the Arctic Environment (Final Stage)      
Elena Adasheva-Klein, Department of Anthropology

My short-term ethnographic project explores the human perception of light in the Arctic environment during the polar day on an expedition cruise. Through conversational interviews and informal discussions with passengers and crew, we delved into individuals’ observations, experiences, and contemplations about light in the polar landscape, as well as how they articulate their perceptions. The fieldwork for this project took place in August 2023.The environmental humanities grant will partially cover the final stage of this work, including transcriptions of interviews, organizing and analyzing data, and preparing the presentation of findings for public outreach.

Memories of Contamination
Daniel Blokh, Yale College

Though the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster is well-documented in the media, we rarely hear firsthand accounts of the catastrophe. My short film, composed of interviews conducted in Ukrainian diaspora centers such as New York’s Brighton Beach and Ukrainian Village, documents the memories of Ukrainians who lived through Chernobyl. By centering interviewees’ concrete experiences, the film captures the intersection between human lives and ecological systems. Furthermore, by highlighting the role of Moscow’s negligence and obfuscation in compounding the disaster, the film comments upon the human and environmental toll of Russia’s contemporary war on Ukraine and the ways imperialism exacerbates climate catastrophe.

The Peyote Coordinate: Considering the Status of the “Native American Spirituality” Religion in Prisons, Ceremonial Land Reconnection, and Cactus Conservation Challenges

Estrella V. Castillo, History of Science and History of Medicine (HSHM)

Global interest in North American peyote cactus therapeutic and religious practices surged in the past century, outpacing natural regrowth and conservation efforts. Divergent political histories among peyote observers exacerbate a perceived “disconnect” between interested groups and habitat needs. Nevertheless, peyote, particularly among displaced Native Americans and the Indigenous diaspora, has served as a “coordinate” for Land-based traditions and reaffirmations of indigeneity, even if landless. Indeed, incarcerated individuals, notably constrained, report finding relief from their compulsory disconnection from land and peoples in the spiritualized land practices that ceremonies sustain. Despite legal protections in some states, hindrances persist for ceremonial facilitators and conservationists in serving ceremonial prison networks. Based on interviews with facilitators, conservationists, and incarcerated individuals, this project examines the status of “Native American Spirituality” in prisons, participant barriers, and avenues for religious rights and conservation advocacy.

Searing Sands & Silent Grazing: Nomadic Life in a Changing Climate
Zaya Delgerjargal, Yale School of the Environment

When I was five, my grandmother milked her cows twice daily. Now, it’s my aunt who tends to the cows. The only difference is: she milks them just once. The reason behind this shift lies in the impact of climate change, which has led to a decrease in milk and meat production. The story unfolds in Bayankhongor, Mongolia, where the temperature rise is twice the global average and icy cold snaps have dramatically increased. My documentary aims to encapsulate these scientific findings within the context of an ordinary nomadic family, who will serve as a microcosm, symbolizing the physical, spiritual, and emotional experiences of the nomadic population. I aim through this documentary not to tell a story myself but to let Mongolians tell their own story through oral history.

Water over Nickel: A Documentary Showing Us What We Have To Lose
Allie Douma, Yale School of the Environment

My project highlights the work of advocates, farmers, and citizens of northern Minnesota working to stop the Talon Nickel mine in Tamarack. I will focus on how people use the water and natural environment to show that the environment and their cultures are worth protecting. Time and time again Native folk and farmers are forced to prove that their land and their culture are worth protecting. As the Biden administration pushes for an electric future with a focus on critical minerals in the United States more communities will be faced with the question of how they can protect themselves.

Conversations in the Environmental Humanities
Abigail Fields, French Department

“Conversations in the Agricultural Humanities,” constitutes a series of events that welcome thinkers that we believe to be at the cutting edge of the cultural study of agriculture. While many of the invited speakers are academics, we are also interested in inviting artists, organizers, and farmers to join in order to think about the ways agricultural land and labor is represented in popular culture, past and present.  These events will be formatted as informal conversations between two people at a time, and will be held in public spaces (i.e., not university settings) in order to render more accessible these discussions, which we believe to be urgent in the face of climate catastrophe, violence and injustice resulting from environmental colonialism, and rifts between notions of society and “nature”.

Ecological Disobedience Cartography in NY
Alberto Martinez Garcia, Yale School of Architecture

Ecological Disobedience Cartography in NY investigates ecological systems that have resisted human domestication within the built environment. Through the documentation of three case studies, I will explore ecological acts of resistance that challenge the myth of human control over nature in urban contexts. The project will be developed in collaboration with Latent Ecologies, a NYC-based collective I co-founded that advocates for symbiotic relationships between humans and nature in an urban context. The resultant cartographies will be presented in a traveling exhibition throughout NYC, engaging with diverse local communities and activist groups.

The Yale Environmentalist
Molly Hill, Yale College

The Yale Environmentalist is a student publication in its fourth year. Founded shortly before the pandemic, the Environmentalist is still a new publication, and is a project run by the Yale Student Environmental Coalition. So far, it has published irregularly and in print only once. We aim to expand the magazine to publishing regularly (once per semester), recruit a larger staff of editors and staff writers, connect with environmental writers at universities beyond Yale, and host environmental writing events throughout the year.

Global Environment in Early Modernity
John Hoffmeyer, Comparative Literature, and Taylor Yoonji Kang, Comparative Literature and Early Modern Studies

As Robert Watson argued in his seminal monograph Back to Nature, many key problems in contemporary consideration of environmental crises – scale, perspective, the human and its place in broader ecosystems – find their roots in forms of environmental thinking during early modernity. Through this project, we want to explore comparative, global approaches to “environmental thinking” in a variety of media and in diverse contexts. By broadening our purview beyond conventional Western frameworks through an intentionally diverse symposium at Yale, we hope to think through problems of cultural specificity and contingency in how we shape our understanding of the world we inhabit.

Explain It Like I’m Nine
Claire Hungerford and Elise Limon, Yale School of Art

Explain it Like I’m Nine is a project to produce a series of short publications working with a cross-section of scholars in the Environmental Humanities at Yale to distill some part of their research, critically and tenderly, into short illustrated stories. Whereas academic knowledge is typically funneled into papers, journals, and lectures, this project is aimed at the most ‘diverse and lay public’ – children. In the first phase of the project, we will produce and illustrate three storybooks, referencing one scholar’s work per book. A series of local readings will be held at the New Haven Public Library and Possible Futures bookstore.

Changing Environments: Climate Change and Culture in Varanasi, India
Dominik Juling, Yale School of the Environment

For my summer research project in Varanasi, India, in June, July and August, I will ethnographically investigate the interactions between environmental and climatic changes and society and its diverse communities. The summer months in Varanasi are characterized by the transition from the dry to the wet season. As a passionate hobby photographer, I strive to capture images of how extreme weather interacts with ancient cultural and spiritual traditions. This more creative side project is only loosely connected to my main academic summer research project. The goal of the project is a photo exhibition on the Yale Campus.

Fostering Community by Redefining Waste: The Newhallville Geodesic Dome Project
Paloma Lenz, Yale College

The COVID-19 pandemic magnified the impact of redlining in New Haven’s Newhallville neighborhood, exacerbating challenges such as limited natural spaces and community disconnection. To respond to these injustices, my team, Plastic Nexus of EcoSocial Thought, will collaborate with Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven (NHS) to construct a geodesic dome as an art installation at Shepard Street Community Garden. The dome will redefine conventional notions of waste by using repurposed plastic and “invasive” plant species as construction materials. We intend to create opportunities for residents to strengthen ties to each other and their environment by renewing an urban green space.

Lamenting the Loss of Creations with Episcopal Bishops
Kara Lyn Moran, Yale School of the Environment

I will be conducting a lament writing workshop and interviews with Episcopal Bishops in response to their emotions related to the climate crisis in their local communities. This workshop will give a space to discuss the weight that being a leader in a community can bring in response to the climate crisis. We will then discuss what bishops are doing in their local communities to respond to environmental problems. I will conduct more in-depth interviews for a better understanding of the landscape of the lamentation and how religious leadership and theological ideas are being affected by the climate crisis.

Resting Land
Adam Nussbaum, Yale College

Today, the United States military occupies about one-third of the surface of Guam (Guåhan). Thinking from the island’s two main industries, defense and tourism, this project investigates leisure architecture from the postwar period before Guam opened to civilian travel, 1944–1962. A multimedia method of satellite imaging, photography, interviews, and writing will attempt to record the traces of militarized urbanization in the island’s landscape. In studying the land, we inevitably encounter buried histories—like the farms underneath a Navy golf course. As histories suggest futures, these sites might urge us to remember and imagine a demilitarized, agricultural, sovereign Guåhan.

Breadfruit in the Marquesas Islands: Exploring Climate Resilience and Food Sovereignty through an Indigenous Cookbook
Lily O’Sullivan, Yale College

The Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia, has a rich Indigenous culture surrounding breadfruit, a staple crop. This summer, I will create a recipe book, highlighting five to six Indigenous Marquesan dishes made with breadfruit. It will document the preparation of these dishes, as well as the cultural context of meals, festivities and stories enjoyed with breadfruit. Pictures, captions and reflections will accompany the recipes, with all materials written in English, French and Marquesan. I will stay on Tahuata with a family that I became close with in the summer of 2022, while working on an archeological dig.

Ruidosa, Texas: Stories of Movement and Matter
Rebecca Lea Potts, Religious Studies        

This project will build an interactive oral history and photo archive website with GIS maps documenting the environmental, architectural, migration, and religious histories of Ruidosa, Texas. Ruidosa is now a ghost town along the banks of the Rio Grande. The website will trace overlapping and contradictory relationships with water and dirt enacted by the Indigenous, Mexican, Anglo, and Tejano inhabitants of this slice of borderland. This project will create a record of the change over time in land use along the border as influenced by past religious and engineering practices. 

Saunter - Another look and listen at everyday nature
Shubhi Sharma, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology        

Did you know there is a White Oak tree in the Marsh Gardens that is believed to be older than the university itself? Right off Hillhouse Lane, an enormous turkey tail mushroom, boasting of unique medicinal properties grows. In the winter, hundreds of oyster shells wash up on Long Island Sound shores. In the Spring, thousands of birds migrate through campus. While Yale is widely acknowledged for its intellectual and cultural significance, a variety of organisms coexist with us on this campus. We aim to transform how students perceive and connect with everyday space at Yale through a multisensory exhibition of visual and musical compositions that highlight the small natural beauty in common spaces that we often miss in our hurried lives. We hope this will allow busy students to pause, reflect, and reconnect with nature all around us.

Santana Vannarath, Yale College

Extractions is a dance concert that explores the human experience under climate change. The production features seven original pieces that contain research-based choreography set to music by Beyoncé, Harry Styles, Nina Simone, and other popular artists. Ultimately, this interdisciplinary project aims to address climate change through dance in new and entertaining ways. In undertaking this, I hope to better understand one, the role of climate change in popular culture and two, how traditional academic research and artistic practices can inform each other. Extractions will run in the Lighten Theater from April 5th-6th, 2024.

Documenting Nuclear Imperialism in the Algerian Sahara
Hao Wang, Yale School of Architecture

Between 1960 and 1966, the French colonial regime detonated 17 nuclear bombs in the Algerian Sahara. These detonations resulted in the leakage of radioactive materials that still remain in the area to this day. However, little of this operation is known by the public due to the concealment of the French state. I propose compiling a web archive documenting and piecing together fragments of evidence from oral histories sources to juxtapose with the French ‘official’ archive. Upon completion of the research and interviews, I will collaborate with a graphic design student at the MFA program to design and construct the website.

New Haven, Revisited
Kevin Yang and Fany Kuzmova, Yale School of Architecture

This project is a continuation of the New Haven, Revisited project that was funded by Yale Environmental Humanities in 2023. Over the past year we have conducted interviews and workshops with New Haven residents and high schools, revealing insights into youth spaces in a post-renewal environment, oral histories of lost community spaces, and mechanisms for community revitalization. With our workshop series wrapping up, we turn our focus toward representing these stories to policymakers and the broader public. We aim to achieve this through a publication and an interactive exhibit at the New Haven City Hall and the New Haven Free Public Library (NHFPL). 

Inhabiting Cracks: Documenting Urban Vernacular Memorials
Lucy Ruxi Zuo, Yale College

This project explores vernacular memorials – sites of remembrance spontaneously ritualized or built by individuals or communities for mourning or remembrance – by creating a multisensory archive of oral histories, objects, and drawings. The research focuses on Hong Kong and Sarajevo, where citizens occupy hidden or informal urban spaces to reclaim their histories and resist collective amnesia. Through site analysis and documentation, the project collaborates with local artists and collectives to map memory-making practices in danger of disappearance, from graffiti to indigenous performances. The final exhibition and archive contribute to the global conversation on post-traumatic landscapes and public memory by spotlighting grassroots memorials.