Societies and the Sea

Discipline: Science, Technology & Society (Engineering)
Instructor: Green
Credits: 3

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The oxygen in every second breath we take is produced in the ocean, and more than 3.5 billion people rely on marine animals as their primary source of protein. These are just some of the obvious links between our needs and ocean resources. Throughout this course we will explore how oceans have shaped human cultures, societies, and economies, and the ways in which human activities are affecting ocean ecosystems. Our investigations will draw on information from a range of disciplines—including biology, oceanography, ethnoecology, anthropology, archeology, and economics—to study the reciprocal relationships between people and marine environments throughout history. Locations visited during the semester will serve as case studies for investigations. In particular, we will look at why coastal areas are hotspots for human settlement, how ocean phenomena have influenced spiritual beliefs, the role of maritime travel in connecting and expanding societies, the ways in which we harvest marine organisms for food and medicine, and the future of energy production in the ocean. Using these topics as our backdrop, we will consider how rapid human population growth, urbanization, and technological development are leading to the degradation of marine ecosystems and resources. Finally, we will consider options for restoring and conserving marine environments and species (including our own).