I went to a small liberal arts college and took a geology course to fulfill a requirement. That was the spark that got me thinking about environmental geology. Geology helps me wonder about the world. There is something so awesome, in the real sense, that we are all connected in an earth system. This adds the perspective to environmental issues that what we do here has a potential effect somewhere else.
I went to graduate school for geology and, later, for creative writing, because I realized there was all this science out there, but when you talk to people, they don’t know about it. I thought there had to be a way to make science accessible to people who don’t see themselves as scientists. I just love when students get fired up, when I see them make connections between the sciences and humanities.
I’ve been lucky to be a part
of a pioneering field called ecocinema studies, joining environmental
studies and film studies. My focus is working with contemporary Indigenous communities, especially on their work with fictional films. Fiction has a way
of making you think, without preaching at you.
In my classes, I use sunglasses to get students to think about how important different ways of thinking
and interdisciplinarity are. I say, “You have the chance to switch your sunglasses and see
things from different perspectives.” And we laugh, because although the sunglasses serve as a metaphorical prop, there is a literal environmental aspect to this exercise—I use sunglasses that I found on campus; they are someone’s forgotten or discarded litter. It’s neat to see students immediately pick up on the connections between ideas and action.
As an environmental humanities scholar, Prof. Salma Monani explores the interconnections between culture and nature and how cultural media shape—and are shaped by—environmental issues. In 2015, she was awarded a prestigious writing fellowship from the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich, Germany.