October, 2015 E-News
Ohio Humanities recently announced a three-year initiative focusing on the environment. As part of this initiative, the organization will strategically invest in public conversations that address environmental issues from a humanities perspective. Examples of projects that could receive support are documentary media, exhibits, community conversations, and educator enrichment. “Toward a Beautiful Ohio will address topics that are relevant to Ohioans today,” said Assistant director David Merkowitz. “The environmental focus is one born out of months of listening to people and organizations around Ohio. This is a direct result of what we were told is important.”
For much of Ohio’s history, the good times were signified by belching smokestacks. Pulling down forests, draining the swamps, and extracting fossil fuels helped Ohioans build a new state. While Ohioans prospered, all this activity degraded the environment. The first Industrial Revolution of coal and steam, and second of oil, steel, and chemicals left behind poisonous waste. As these first waves of industry passed into history, the sprawling growth of the cities buried the best farmland under suburban housing developments. Modern agriculture turned large swathes of the state toward the horizontal industrial production of corn, soybeans, hogs, and poultry. Finding a resilient and sustainable relationship with the environment in a place so firmly shaped by human activity is a significant and on-going challenge.
The experiences of Ohio communities, families, and individuals are grounded in the state’s vibrant landscapes and cities, and shaped by its natural resources. Ohioans are deeply tied to the environments they inhabit. Place names reflect those ties. The word Ohio originated from the Iroquois (Haudenosuanee) for “Good River.” This name was later translated by the French as La Belle Rivière, “the Beautiful River”. Toward a Beautiful Ohio supports public humanities projects that explore the interdependence between the people and places of Ohio. Ohio Humanities seeks to uncover the stories that reveal human interactions with the environment, to better understand our past and present, and imagine our shared future.