Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Anthropology and Environment Society
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Anthropocene
Secondary Theme: Resilience
The West Coast of North America is a dynamic geographic, geological, and socio-cultural edge that has shaped human experience for thousands of years. From the Kelp Highway to today’s concrete sea walls and rock revetments, humans have responded and adapted to this shifting edge through culture, technology, ideology, and a certain dogged persistence (for better and worse). According to current archaeological and genomic data, the Americas were first colonized sometime between 25,000 and 15,000 years ago (Llamas et al 2016; Braje et al 2017). During this time, global sea level has been on the rise, albeit at varying rates. For the past 7,000 years, the rate of sea level rise remained relatively stable. This period of stability lasted until about a century ago and played a fundamental role in shaping expanded coastal settlement and population growth (Griggs 2017:5; see also Griggs, Patsch and Savoy 2005). Today millions of people call this stretch of North America home—from Anchorage to Vancouver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles all the way to the West Coast of Mexico. With the onset of anthropogenic climate change in the Anthropocene (Crutzen and Stoermer 2000; Steffen et al. 2011; Sayre 2012) and increasing rates of sea level rise, these coastal communities face tremendous challenges in the coming years of the 21st century. Starting with the premise that long-term understandings of human-environment relations are fundamental for approaching and assessing the complex future that lies before us, this session seeks to bring together perspectives from archaeology, environmental anthropology, historical ecology, cultural ecology, and political ecology to examine humanity’s relationship with the West Coast of North America.