COA’s Coffee & Conversation Begins with Talk on Attraction of Humans to Coasts

Posted June 25, 2013, at 12:34 p.m.
Last modified July 11, 2013, at 7:49 a.m.

Thursday, Jan. 1, 1970 12 a.m. to 12 a.m.

Location: College of the Atlantic, Deering Common Campus Center, 105 Eden Street, Bar Harbor, Maine

For more information: Kim Childs; 207-801-5625;

BAR HARBOR, ME—Since before recorded history, people have congregated near water, says historian John Gillis, on the attraction of humans to oceans. Gillis, author of The Human Shore, joins Tim Garrity, director of the Mount Desert Island Historical Society, to talk about the coast as the evolutionary home of humans, beginning some 200,000 years ago. The talk will be at College of the Atlantic’s Common Community Center at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, July 2.

The Human Shore, published in 2012 by the University of Chicago Press, is a sweeping account of the coastal experience “from its origins among the people who dwelled along the African shore to the bustle and glitz of today’s megacities and beach resorts,” according to Gillis. Coasts, adds Gillis, continue to be a place of great cultural and material creativity. “We have shaped the shore, but the shore has also shaped the human species.” Today, however, as climate change raises water levels, “our relationship to the sea has begun to take on new and potentially catastrophic dimensions.”

A summer resident of Gotts Island, Gillis is also an emeritus professor of history at Rutgers University and a Fulbright Senior Scholar. He has been a visiting fellow at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences at Uppsala University. When not in Maine, Gillis lives in Berkeley, CA.

Join Gillis and Garrity for a free-ranging discussion from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., the first in a summer-long series of Tuesday morning Coffee & Conversations at COA, mostly in Deering Common Community Center.

Future 9 a.m. Tuesday Coffee & Conversations are as follows:

July 9: Sculpture artist Blakeney Sanford ’02 and COA faculty member Bonnie Tai on the artistic inspiration of nature.

July 16: Suzanne Loebl, author of America’s Medicis: The Rockefellers and Their Astonishing Cultural Legacy. She talks with COA faculty member Jamie McKown.

July 23: Historian Elisabeth Kehoe, author of The Titled Americans: Three American Sisters and the British Aristocratic World into Which They Married, among other books, talks about historical biographies to COA literature faculty member Karen Waldron.

July 30: Jim Sterba, author of Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds, talks with COA trustee Ron Beard in the college’s George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History.

Aug. 6: Peter Blanchard, author of We Were an Island: The Maine Life of Art and Nan Kellam, talks to Lynn Boulger, COA dean of institutional advancement.

Aug. 13: Arthur Martinez, former Sears CEO and author of The Hard Road to the Softer Side: Lessons from the Transformation of Sears, talks to Will Thorndike, chair of COA’s board of trustees in the George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History.

Aug. 20: Jason Herrick, Sotheby VP talks with Ernie McMullen, COA faculty member in art.

For more information on the weekly conversations, which are free, complete with morning refreshments, contact Kim Childs, or 207-801-5625.

College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. A leader in experiential education and environmental stewardship, COA has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning—human ecology—that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers needed by all sectors of society in addressing the compelling and growing needs of our world. For more, visit