The Henry Luce Foundation has awarded Duke’s Kenan Institute for Ethics a four-year grant of $550,000 to support a multidisciplinary exploration of humanity’s place in an Anthropocene world. The project will be led by Norman Wirzba, professor of theology, ecology, and agrarian studies at Duke Divinity School and a senior fellow at the Kenan Institute, and Jedediah Purdy, Robinson O. Everett Professor of Law at Duke Law School.

The “Rethinking Humanity’s Place in an Anthropocene World” project will seek to transform and redirect academic disciplines so they can better prepare communities to meet the health, sustainability, and justice challenges of the Anthropocene, the current geological age in which human activity has been the dominant influence on Earth’s geology and ecosystems. Questions of theology and law are intended to provide a dual, orienting focus while drawing in perspectives from a wide range of other disciplines.

“The theological perspective is intended to give the project a lens through which we can assess questions of meaning, value, and purpose in our institutions and policies,” said Wirzba, “Ultimately, our goal is to rethink the work we’re doing in academic disciplines so that we’re not simply recapitulating the modes of thought that have created the crises we now face.”

The project will include an intensive multidisciplinary working group in which scholars will engage the topic through conversation, monographs, and essays; a university-wide graduate seminar taught by Wirzba and Purdy on the project’s themes; public lectures and panel discussions; and research projects for graduate students.

The Henry Luce Foundation was established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time Inc., and seeks to bring important ideas to the center of American life, strengthen international understanding, and foster innovation and leadership in academic, policy, religious, and art communities.