This course sees water as the sine qua non of life on Earth and as a determinant factor in historical and contemporary human civilization. In the twenty-first century, looming water scarcity, degradation, and emerging ideas about the management and value of water allow us to reassess the nature and value of water from a variety of perspectives and disciplines.
In this Global Seminar, we will broadly investigate the nature of water and humankind’s relationship to it. The first three classes are devoted to developing multiple angles of inquiry for exploring the multifaceted and interconnected topic of water. From a historical lens charting humankind’s relationship to water through time, to a scientific lens exploring why water issues differ across regions (considering geomorphology, climate, precipitation and pollution cycles); to a socio-cultural lens exploring how access (and lack of access) to water mediates human experience around the globe; to a political economy paradigm that looks at structural inequalities of water access. Then, using these lenses of inquiry, we will survey places around the globe in an effort to explore local, regional, and international water systems.
By understanding the interconnections between the ecological, economic, agricultural, scientific, ethical, and life-sustaining aspects of water, students will develop their ability to engage in interdisciplinary analysis of hydrological issues that are of both contemporary and perennial importance.