Tell Them We Don't Want to Leave: The Marshallese and Sea-Level Rise (2014-10)

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Jan 02, 2015
Zola K. Moon and Donna S. Davis

The case study focuses on the peoples of the Marshall Islands, a collection of islands and atolls in the Pacific Ocean. The Marshallese are faced with increasing population pressures, a struggling economy, droughts and rising sea levels as well as repercussions from the atomic testing by the US military. This case study will expose students to the ways in which social-environmental systems operate and connect across different scales. Using a combination of a directed case study and a decision case, students will review documents, environmental and social data, along with qualitative data. Students will synthesize the data to begin to understand sea-level rise and current and potential impacts on the Marshallese. In the decision case portion of the study, students will work together in small groups to identify a suite of possible actions to be taken by groups in the US and/or in the Marshall Islands for adaptation to climate change impacts.

For the Answer Keys to the assignments in the supplemental file, please contact Cynthia Wei at or the case study authors.

Estimated time frame: 
Multiple class periods
SES learning goals: 
  • Understand the structure and behavior of socio-environmental systems
  • Consider the importance of scale and context in addressing socio-environmental problems
  • Find, analyze, and synthesize existing data, concepts, or methods
Has this been tested in the class room: 
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