Figuring Sea-Level Rise

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Rupe/Figuring Sea Level Rise Conference: Risk and Uncertainty and the Communication of Sea Level Rise

Regional map of mean sea level trends 1993-2010 from ESA online videos. Regions in red experienced the largest sea level increases (about 12 mm per year), while sea levels in blue regions decreased. On average, global sea levels rose by approximately 3 mm per year during the two-decade sampling period.

FIGURING SEA LEVEL RISE is 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. Over the next century, rising seas will transform coastlines and coastal zones.  The Republic of Maldives and the island nation of Tuvalu are already responding to this predicament, as are indigenous communities in the Arctic and coastal communities in California.

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. 

Projected effects of sea level rise on Santa Barbara Channel

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.

Figuring Sea Level Rise is a widely collaborative project, 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. Through workshops, seminars, a multi-media website, film screenings and a conference we will explore how 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. Our unifying “environmental media” approach will consider how research on the rising oceans is conducted through sophisticated techniques of measuring and modeling and represented or “figured” through various types of media.

The year-long series engages three major themes:  

FALL 2012: Vulnerable Communities

WINTER 2013: Interactive Visioning

I heart H2O Workshops - March 1 and May 10

SPRING 2013: Rupe Conference - Risk and Uncertainty and the Communication of Sea Level Rise



Figuring Sea Level Rise is the 2012-13 Critical Issues in America series, which is funded by UC Santa Barbara’s College of Letters and Science to discuss an important topic of contemporary concern or significance. Other sponsors of the Figuring Sea Level Rise series include:

The Carsey-Wolf Center (CWC) supports research, teaching, and public programming about media. The Center’s Environmental Media Initiative brings together environmental scientists with film and media scholars drawn from the humanities, arts, and social sciences to explore all of the ways media and the environment influence, structure, and inhabit each other.

The Arthur N. Rupe Foundation is dedicated to achieving positive social changes by shining light on critical and controversial issues.  The Arthur N. Rupe Chair in the Social Effects of Mass Communication organizes the biennial Rupe Conference.

The Institute for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research (ISBER) is UC Santa Barbara's Organized Research Unit for sponsored research in social sciences and, to a lesser extent, other divisions of the university. With over 130 principal investigators and 14 Research Centers, ISBER provides help with conceptualizing, finding funding for, and administering projects.

The Interdisciplinary Humanities Center (IHC) is committed to advancing the place of the humanities in a public university and to fostering a spirit of free inquiry and expression. By hosting a wide array of interdisciplinary programs and activities, the IHC serves as a vital link between the campus and the community, and to the University as a whole through the UC Humanities Network.

UC Santa Barbara's Department of Film and Media Studies focuses on film, television, and new media around the world. With nearly 500 undergraduate majors and more than two dozen graduate students, FMS cultivates critical and analytical skills through the study of media objects and practices.

The Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UCSB has earned a reputation as one of the top schools of its kind in the nation. It is among a handful of schools in the United States — and the only one in the West — that integrate science, management, law, economics, and policy as part of an interdisciplinary approach to environmental problem-solving.

The Center for Information Technology and Society (CITS) is dedicated to research and education about the cultural transitions and social innovations associated with technology, particularly in the highly dynamic environments that seem so pervasive in organizations and societies today. The Center also works to improve engineering through infusing social insights into the innovative process.

Associated Students Coastal Fund is a student initiative which provides funds to preserve, protect, and enhance the terrestrial and marine habitats associated with the shoreline of the University of California, Santa Barbara through preservation, education, open access, research, and restoration.

Department of Anthropology focuses on the study of humankind in the broadest sense: biological, sociocultural, and historical. The Department of Anthropology at UCSB has been a vibrant and active center of research and teaching for a half century.

The Environmental Studies Program was established in 1970, at UC Santa Barbara and is one of the oldest and largest programs in the nation. It is recognized as one the most successful undergraduate environmental programs in the world. With over 5,200 alumni, graduates can be found holding leadership positions, nationally and internationally, in government, industry, law, and dozens of other fields. 

University of California Institute for Research in the Arts is a statewide program dedicated to supporting and promoting arts practice and research across the University of California system. Through our grants program we offer support for individual and collaborative projects in all disciplines. We also support special projects affiliated with our three current areas of interest: Art+California, Art+Exchange, and Art+Science.

The Literature and Environment Specialization in the Department of English is a national leader in the study of Literature and the Environment. What makes this specialization unique is that, with a total of twelve faculty members offering over two dozen courses, it offers seamless, strong coverage in ecocritical coursework from the early Renaissance through the 21st century.

The NSF Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UCSB serves as a national research and education center, a network hub among researchers and educators concerned with societal issues concerning nanotechnologies, and a resource base for studying these issues in the US and abroad.

In a serene setting alongside a Pacific lagoon, the Art, Design & Architecture Museum (AD&A) at the UC Santa Barbara provides intimate access to art. Through rotating installations of its permanent collections along with special exhibitions and programs, the AD&A Museum is both a teaching museum, committed to the development of critical thinking and visual literacy in support of the University’s goals of education, research, and service, and a resource for the wider Santa Barbara community.