Exploring the relationship between water and civilization
April 15, 2019
King’s students are invited to enrol in English 2262F: Water and Civilization which will run from May 13-31. The course will examine the relationship between water (its management and mythology) and the development of diverse civilizations. The course will alternate between historical examples from around the world (including the Nile River in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia, the Yangtze in China, the Ganges in India and the Thames in England) and a specific focus on the Great Lakes Basin, including a group project for improving the ecology of the Thames (Deshkan Ziibi).
Dr. Ian Rae, the instructor for the course, says the idea for Water and Civilization came from listening to his students. “Students frequently tell me that they are concerned about issues such as climate change,
e-waste, and toxic elements in their food chain,” he says. “I think the daily news cycle of drought, flooding, melting glaciers, and oil spills is starting to make students aware of the urgency of addressing these water issues to create a sustainable future for themselves and for vulnerable populations around the world.”
“Climate change is a humanities problem, as well as a scientific one because contemporary civilizations need to be reinvented to meet the challenges of rapidly changing environments. It’s the job of English majors, humanists, and social scientists to study how the story of climate change has been told, how it could be told better, how disinformation is spread, how water wars arise from geopolitical tensions, how social relations could be reconfigured, and how water might be considered a commodity or a human right. The science on climate change is alarmingly clear—if anything, Canada is warming faster and glaciers are melting quicker than most scientists have projected. The problem is thus one about the message and society’s response to it,” Dr. Rae says.
Dr. Rae decided to create a course to give students some historical perspective on ecological issues and then empower them to act on what they’ve learned. Rae says the course will also show students how making wise ecological decisions has determined the rise and fall of civilizations and encourage students to make positive changes in their own lives, their own communities, on campus, and in the city.
Approximately a third of the three-week course will focus on the watershed of the Thames (Deshkan Ziibi), which cuts across Southwestern Ontario. “It helps that the object of our study is right outside the classroom door. It makes the issues we will read about more immediate,” says Dr. Rae.
Water and Civilization will show how water is the basis of all life on earth and illustrate its connection to a range of issues from agriculture to energy production to urban design and aesthetics.
“We will consider how different civilizations in the past have depended on, and managed, and thrived because of--or disappeared because of--water, from the Nile delta to the coast of California,” says Dr. Rae. “I hope to use these global examples to stimulate some creative visions of sustainable urban living in Canada. London is making small improvements to its river parks downtown, for example, but much more radical experiments are taking place in cities that are threatened by rising sea levels, such as Boston, or drought, such as several cities in India.”
For more information on Water and Civilization, please visit https://www.kings.uwo.ca/kings/assets/File/academics/eng/ENG-2262F.pdf