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Past Themes 2007-08


Proposed by the Rev. Mark Wm. Radecke, university chaplain, “Water,” as a university theme, lends itself to critical thinking across a variety of disciplines and fields of study.

From the Gilgamesh epic and the Bible's story of Noah to Odysseus struggling with Poseidon in Homer's Odyssey, Moby Dick and The Old Man and the Sea, water has been both character and setting in ancient and modern writings. Water is also a near-universal symbol in the rites, myths and stories of the world's religions. From Mikvah baths in Judaism, the ablutions of Islam and Christianity’s sacrament of baptism to the seven sacred rivers of Hinduism and the four elements in Native American creation stories, water plays an important role in the religious practices of people around the globe.

Issues of pollution and potable water also strike humanity on a global level. Only one percent of the world's water is fresh and safe to drink. One in six people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water, and 80 countries – home to 40 percent of the world's population – are encountering serious water shortages.

In addition to the global challenge of safe and clean water, the theme opens itself to other social and environmental considerations, including the issue of Riparian rights and water-related conflicts, natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes and mudslides, the health and preservation of our waterways, and the effects of global warming on oceans, tides, currents and climates.

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