Wavescapes in the Anthropocene

Conversations with Planet Ocean: Plastic Pollution and the Common Heritage of Humankind

Rupert J. M. Medd

Research Article
Accepted: Oct 22, 2019


This story-based journey is an eclectic discussion on marine plastic pollution. It responds to the Environmental Humanities by bringing material history, personal experiences as well as ecotheories and natural sciences together. The conversational style, like shifting tides, speaks to anyone who wishes to develop a broader understanding on plastic pollution and its ecological consequences. While much of the scientific data has been drawn from specialist journals such as Marine Pollution Bulletin and UN-Oceans, it is the mostly shared experiences on the World Ocean that inform this study such as dialogues and stories spoken by blue activists, general audiences, local groups, fishermen, researchers, students, scientists, surfers, sailors, divers, day-trippers, ferry crews, port authorities and marine protection societies. These voices speak from a position of ecocosmopolitanism on wide-ranging issues such as indifference, world-systems, modernity, ecological literatures, a common geostory, biosemiotics, the Anthropocene as well as Planetary Boundaries. By acknowledging that the World Ocean and its qualities have come to symbolise a fluid globalising world economy, alternative themes surface such as permeability, flows, agencies, loss, renewed sense of place, cross-species entanglements, peace and sustainability. The debates edge along fairly freely yet engage with three original ideas, namely: (1) plastic pollution may impact the climate more severely than the actual circulating concepts on climate change; (2) critical levels in the environment have been reached and this should, therefore, be part of a Planetary Boundary within “Novel entities” as it adversely affects the Earth’s systems; and (3) the question of language and how new education curricula centred around ecolinguistics and a shared geostory would better inform our environmental relations and altruistic natures. As presented here, plastic pollution is at its heart a debate involving a moral reassessment and appreciation of Planet Ocean, which constitutes our greatest personal gift – the “common heritage of humankind.”

World Ocean, Plastics, Marine Life, Marine Pollution, Environment, Modernity, Anthropocene, Biosemiotics, Consumerism, Loss, Imagination, Ecology.