John R. Gillis
The Human Shore
Seacoasts in History
University of Chicago Press 2012
New Books in Big IdeasNew Books in Environmental StudiesNew Books in GeographyNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in World AffairsNew Books Network February 26, 2014 Marshall Poe
Americans are moving to the ocean. Every year, more and more Americans move to–or are born in– the coasts and fewer and fewer remain in–or are born in–the interior. The United States began as a coastal nation; it’s become one again.
According to John R. Gillis‘s provocative new book The Human Shore: Seacoasts in History (University of Chicago Press, 2012), the same may be said of the entire world. Humans, he says, started–or rather quickly became after they evolved in eastern Africa 200,000 ago–a coastal species. We stayed very close to the oceans and seas until the advent of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Thereafter, we moved into various interiors. Now, he says, we are moving back to the shore in force. We are transforming it and, alas, destroying much of it. Gillis calls on us to think of the shore not as a place to settle, but a habitat that is essential to our future prosperity and, one might say, survival. Listen in.