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Will humanities save the planet?

Weronika Parfianowicz PhD in an interview for an Instagram profile of an environmental science website named “” explains, how humanities and social sciences, in contrary to a common belief, can be beneficial to the development of the societal consciousness about the climate crisis, which is one of the biggest challenges of the twenty first century. Weronika Parfianowicz PhD in the interview video shares the potential particular obstacles and reasons behind the constant worsening of the planet’s environment.[1]


Environmental weight on my shoulders

“When three years ago I realised, while reading the IPCC report, the seriousness of the dangers facing us and how deep the climate-environmental crisis already is, among the many different emotions I felt at the time, one of them was such regret that, as a cultural scientist, I do not have many tools or competencies with which I can immediately get involved to start doing something in order to change and fight this crisis. – Parfianowicz PhD explains her initial powerlessness. – But very soon, when I started reading more texts devoted to the causes of the climate and environmental crisis, I realised that it is the other way around, that the humanities and social sciences have a very big role to play first in understanding the causes and sources of the current crisis, but also in finding ways out of it.”[1]

In the interview Parfianowicz points out that in order to understand the source and reasons of the current situation, a look into the history of the socio-economic system, which dominates the world to this day, is needed. Parfianowicz claims that it is a motor of many negative occurrences, which we experience each day. And it keeps worsening with time.

Hungry heads

Parfianowicz’s statement does not fall far from the truth. We are currently living in a system, which overuses our planet’s resources by almost seventy percent in comparison to what we should be using. If every human currently living on the Earth consumed as much as an average human living in the West, we would need five (!) planets. Additionally, the constantly rising consumptionism will not only cause an increase in the average global temperature, but also increase frequencies of natural disasters, along with deepening of the problem with covering basic needs, even the most trivial ones, like water.[2]

Humanities to save the world

“[…] it is the humanities like history, social history, economic history, that gives us great tools to understand how this system was created, when it was born, under what conditions it functioned, and why it is so durable and difficult to change. – Parfianowicz M.D. asserts. – […] these sciences also give us tremendous knowledge and tools for such thinking about social change, about the fact that we can imagine a world ordered according to completely different norms, in a completely different way, with a completely different economic organisation as well. I am convinced that the humanities and social sciences give us extremely important instruments for expanding our political imagination and fighting for a better world. A world in which we will live in harmony with the nature around us and as part of it.”[1]

Parfianowicz M.D. is sure that Earth has a chance of surviving the crisis, if people will better understand their world and the system they are living in. However, there is still a long way to go – many people, consciously or not, treat the Earth as if a new replacement planet is about to appear, capable of housing 8 billion people, still eager to consume more and more.

Many people do not treat climate change as a real problem, because they are not conscious about the colossal range of side-effects which are entailed with it.

“The second such important thing I see as a task facing the humanities and social sciences is to popularise knowledge about the climate-environmental crisis and to increase public awareness of its sources and the possibilities of combating this crisis. – Parfianowicz M.D. says. – “Since 2019, together with […] Kornelia Sobczak M.D. – also from the Institute of Polish Culture – we are organising a series called “Przed końcem” (“Before the end”). It is a series of meetings and discussions with experts and activists representing various areas, together we discuss various challenges related to the climate-environmental crisis and look for various ways to act in order to fight this crisis.” [1]

The series discussed by Parfianowicz PhD covers a wide range of issues related to the topics such as consumerism and the growing troubles and complications associated with increasing global warming, not only from an environmental perspective, but also from a financial, or a socio-cultural one. These meetings have the potential to significantly deepen human awareness of the aforementioned topics.

“[…] I firmly believe that we very much need the knowledge, competence and sensitivity of people studying the humanitiesand social sciences. We need them to change the consciousness of the public, to break these established beliefs that nothing can be done anymore, that the world has always functioned this way and that there is […] in so-called human nature, for example, greed or various other destructive elements that make it basically hopeless for us anymore.” [1]

People are evil! Ban people!

Many people do not have a good opinion of our society – we are often convinced that people are evil, greedy creatures, consuming everything encountered on their path. However, this is a patch made by us, for us. We can do something about it – just change our attitude. Parfianowicz PhD was asked in an interview why this task belongs to us.

“As you know, the mission to build knowledge together about how the world we live in functions and how this world should change in the near future […] is written […] into the ethos of female and male employees, students and PhD students of all universities. University of Warsaw also very often emphasises how important this mission of public engagement is, and I think that the current climate crisis is a major challenge in which our university should very actively participate and help solve.”[1]

Polish market

Polish research institutions and universities, recognizing the significance of climate change for shaping the domestic market, are undertaking interdisciplinary actions. They collectively integrate humanities, social sciences, exact sciences, and technical fields, striving to explore the connections between market activities and their impact on the environment. They aim to identify socio-economic factors that determine the business sector’s influence on environmental degradation and are working to develop strategies supporting ecological approaches in market activities.

In the rescue of our planet…

Parfianowicz PhD aptly points out the planet rescue mission is a certain unwritten duty that every member of the university should fulfil. But the rescue should reach much further, because everyone lives on Earth, not just academic personnel and the students. Saving our planet should be the goal of all its inhabitants, regardless of their background or status. 


[1] Interview with Weronika Parfianowicz PhD conducted and shared on the Instagram platform by @nauka_o_climacie URL: :

[2] Statistics on the constantly increasing consumerism in the world, created by TheWorldCounts – URL:

Jan Pawłowski
Jestem studentem zarządzania na Wydziale Zarządzania Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, na co dzień wkładam dużo pasji w rozwój osobisty. Interesuję się siłownią, motoryzacją, kulinariami, grami komputerowymi oraz wszelakiej maści ciekawymi (oraz drobnymi, bądź nie) dla mnie faktami naukowymi i artykułami.
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Jan Pawłowski

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