Figuring Sea Level Rise was a year-long initiative from UC Santa Barbara’s Carsey-Wolf Center to extend conversations among scholars, students, policy-makers, activists, and broader publics about the projected effects of sea level rise on human and natural systems.
Sea level rise is perceived, understood, and portrayed differently by different groups within the academy, as well as among those who live or work in coastal zones. Indigenous peoples, as stewards of the waterways, have recorded shifting marine currents, weather irregularity, and changing animal migration patterns through inter-generational media such as oral history and ecological knowledge. Ocean scientists calculate possible sea levels based on climate models, and create interactive maps that can allow you to see when your house might become oceanfront property – or even the property of the ocean.
Scholars in the social sciences and humanities explore the socio-cultural experiences and landscapes of affected communities and the representation of people, place, and environment in documentary films, entertainment media, news outlets, the web, and literature. Managers of coastal communities and companies, and those who insure them against risk, deal with probabilities of likely impact from coastal threats.
The project was widely collaborative, engaging faculty from Anthropology, Communication, and Sociology to Art, East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, English, and Film and Media Studies to Earth Science, Marine Science, Environmental Studies, and Engineering. Workshops, seminars, a multi-media website, film screenings and a conference explored who sea level rise is perceived, understood, and portrayed differently by different groups within the academy, as well as among those who live or work in coastal zones. The unifying “environmental media” approach considered how research on the rising oceans is conducted through sophisticated techniques of measuring and modeling and represented or “figured” through various types of media.
Janet Walker, Professor and Chair of Film and Media Studies
Josh Schimel, Professor of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology and Chair of Environmental Studies
John Foran, Professor of Sociology
Mary Hancock, Professor of History and Anthropology
Stephanie LeMenager, Associate Professor of English
Ann-Elise Lewallen, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies