Princeton University Press is thrilled to announce a new partnership with the Center for Humans and Nature, a nonprofit organization based in Chicago that explores, promotes, and publishes big ideas around environmental ethics, ecological responsibility and stewardship, and the relationship between humans and nature. CHN is the publisher of esteemed online publications such as the Minding Nature journal and the Questions for a Resilient Future series. Princeton University Press’s collaboration with CHN will help to foster its mission to enhance the ideas of important scholars and authors through peer-reviewed books. Our organizations share a mission to bring big ideas to the world and to enrich a global conversation by connecting interdisciplinary thinkers to a broader public. We look forward to bringing you pieces by and about authors whose ideas and areas of expertise overlap with those of CHN.
Christie Henry, Director of Princeton University Press, and Jeremy Ohmes from the Center for Humans and Nature have taken the time to discuss the partnership further in a mutual interview.
What is Princeton University Press?
PUP: Princeton University Press is honored to be part of the AUPresses, a community of scholarly publishers that share a foundation and commitment to peer review, and work collaboratively within the scholarly ecosystem. We are among the largest North American university presses, affiliated with Princeton University, and have been publishing influential books across the disciplines since our origins in 1905.
What is the Center for Humans and Nature?
CHN: We are an organization based in Chicago that explores and promotes ethical thinking and dialogue—particularly as it pertains to ideas of environmental responsibility, ecological stewardship, and connections between humans and nature.
What are your goals/mission?
PUP: Our mission is to be a vital element of the DNA of the knowledge industry, to publish books that encourage the evolution of scholarship and ideas, and impact global conversations among many different constituencies of readers.
CHN: We believe that ideas really do matter. In order to inspire the great actions needed for transforming humanity’s relationship with nature, we share ideas that help us reimagine how to live responsibly on planet Earth. Our overarching goal is to share these ideas with students, teachers, conservationists, policy makers, and the larger thinking and caring community. We bring together philosophers, ecologists, artists, political scientists, anthropologists, poets, and economists, among others, to think creatively about how people can make better decisions—in relationship with each other and the whole community of life.
Can you tell us about a recent project/success story?
PUP: We are constantly seeking books that engage with current conversations, and ensure those conversations are informed by historic and global perspectives. Among the many highlights of this year are Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving. The answer is that in the countries where this is managed, there is structural support at government levels. Caitlyn Collins delineates comparative approaches across four countries to show how much we can learn from a European approach (just the type of synergy that the Press’s UK, European, and US colleagues enjoy!) The lack of paid leave in the United States, the infuriating gender pay gap, and the levels of poverty for women and children are, well, motivating, and we hope this book inspires change. We are also changing as a publisher, and introduced a new paid maternity and paternity leave policy here last year; the ability to learn from our own authors is an enormous privilege of this endeavor.
CHN: We just launched a new issue of our Minding Nature journal, which is our flagship publication. The journal features long-form essays and interviews, short-form reflections and reviews, as well as artwork, poetry, and other forms of creative expression. All of the journal’s content delves into ideas around conservation values and what it means to be a democratic ecological citizen.
We also recently published a new question as part of our Questions for a Resilient Future series. The series poses big-picture questions that explore and challenge our thinking about who we are and how we ought to relate to other living beings. Our most recent question is this: What does it mean to be a farmer in the twenty-first century? Karen Washington and Leah Penniman, both community activists, farmers, and food justice advocates, sparked the series with a moving conversation about black farmers, their personal journeys back to the land, and their visions for future food systems. Others, including agroforester Keefe Keeley and holistic grazier Ariel Greenwood, wrote about their regenerative farming practices and their responsibilities to life and land.
Finally, we house an active and engaging storytelling community called City Creatures. This is a story forum that invites people to submit and share their reflections on urban wildlife and how cities can offer opportunities for transformation, intimacy, and connection with other species and one other.
These three publications—Minding Nature, Questions for a Resilient Future, and City Creatures—are our main idea hubs, and we invite anyone to submit a story, essay, artwork, poetry, or a vision for a more connected world to any of these platforms through our submissions page.
What projects do you have in the works?
PUP: Our Autumn catalog is as vibrant as fall foliage, and reflects great diversity. We have the first comprehensive, illustrated history of a notable urban cornucopia, Brooklyn: The Once and Future City; a new work on the impact of storytelling in economic life, Narrative Economics: How Stories Go Viral and Drive Major Economic Events, by Nobel laureate Robert Shiller; a driver of personal economic events, a book about the costs of college, Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost; a celebration of the endurance of story in a biography of an ancient epic, Gilgamesh: The Life of a Poem; a contribution to global debates about race, The Fire Is upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley, Jr., and the Debate over Race in America; a global history of human rights, A World Divided: The Global Struggle for Human Rights in the Age of Nation-States; and—to join in what we understand is a global mushroom phenomenon—Fungipedia: A Brief Compendium of Mushroom Lore. These are all showcased on our newly redesigned website, www.press.princeton.edu. And we have closed this fiscal year with news of an incredibly exciting partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, a book on the Obama portraits that we will publish in time for Presidents’ Day.
CHN: We are also embarking on a multifaceted project around the theme of kinship. Very much aligned with ideas around rights of nature and legal personhood for nonhuman beings, our kinship project will lift up stories of various cultural understandings of what it means to be kin and how we can strive for honorable relationships with nonhuman persons. These are ideas that we will share through a multiplicity of formats, including publications, podcasts, exhibitions, and events.
Why are you excited about the partnership between PUP and the Center for Humans and Nature?
PUP: The reasons are as diverse as the tall grass prairies. We share a profound and enthusiastic commitment to ideas—to encouraging new ideas, new conversations, and to sharing insights across landscapes and disciplines. Curiosity compels each of our organizations, as does a passion and a mission for convening thought. We each engage philosophers, ecologists, artists, political scientists, anthropologists, poets, and economists—and, in so doing, aim to animate meaningful explorations of the world of ideas and knowledge. On a personal note, I spent years working with CHN in Chicago and couldn’t be more pleased that the migratory corridors lead from Chicago to Princeton.
CHN: Over the years, we have been peripherally connected to Princeton University Press—working with amazing scholars who have also published with the Press. And we have been big fans of PUP for a long time because they share thought-provoking scholarship and they believe, like us, in big ideas. So we are thrilled to cultivate a deeper relationship with the Press and to partner in bringing interdisciplinary thinkers and thinking to the world.
What books inspire you and, in your view, deserve a wider audience?
PUP: All of them! Each inspires, and each deserves a wider audience. I am perpetually in awe of the creative and intellectual tenacity our authors demonstrate in the pages of their work. I also experience firsthand the expertise and altruism that the PUP team brings to these pages, to the bindings, to the covers, to the audio and digital versions. In light of these talents, and the incredible altruism of this team, we are eager to enable more readers the world over to stretch their minds in engaging with the products of such collaborations.
CHN: This is a tough one since our individual reading lists are quite varied. But collectively we love Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, Paul Taylor’s Respect for Nature, Lauret Savoy’s Trace, David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous, Marcia Bjornerud’s Timefulness, Richard Powers’s The Overstory, and, of course, the many books by our friends and contributors.