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Spring course: Society, the Oceans and Inuit

Headshot of Brandon Ray

April 12, 2023

This quarter over 100 UW undergraduates will study our relationship to the world’s oceans including wind energy in the Salish Sea and Inuit concepts of management.

The School of Marine and Environmental Affairs (SMEA), Program on the Environment, and the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies (JSIS) are offering the course Society and the Oceans 103 this Spring Quarter. The course is taught by Brandon Ray, alum of both SMEA and JSIS. The course addresses the status of our world’s oceans—the source of what was once seemingly inexhaustible resource for food and minerals as well as a place of enjoyment and wonder.

The course, divided into five units, will provide students with an introduction to the world’s oceans, examine the concept of the “tragedy of the commons,” introduce student to the Law of the Sea, provide an overview of ocean policies, and seek to understand how Inuit in Canada and beyond are providing critical leadership to address ocean issues.

In addition to teaching, Brandon is the Graduate and Postdoctoral Student Specialist in the College of the Environment.  He holds master’s degrees in Atmospheric Sciences, International Studies, and Marine and Environmental Affairs, all from UW. He has also served as Naval Officer for 17 years–which creates the perfect combination for this interdisciplinary course.

Inuit concepts and policies will address sea and ice as part of nuna or land/territory, the Inuit leadership role in the Arctic Council and beyond, and the work of human rights leaders such as Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Inuk from Nunavik in Canada. In addition to their role in the Arctic, the Inuit have also been vital at changing the amount of attention indigenous perspectives get on environmental issues worldwide, helping advocate for climate justice as well as increasing the understanding and acceptance of traditional knowledge in these discussions.

All of the class assignments are focused on a case study surrounding the development of a wind energy farm in the Salish Sea near Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert in British Columbia.

This wildly popular course also provides elective credits for UW’s minor in Arctic Studies.