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Literatures of Planetary Thresholds
November 17, 2022 │ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
When: Thursday, November 17th, at noon.
Where: Pigott Hall 252.
Ocean as Plantation
Beginning in the early 1970s, research and development projects tested novel marine infrastructure to grow giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, on floating substrates off shore. The goal of these efforts was to produce a renewable, domestic source of oil and gas; feed a hungry world; and cool Earth. The marine biomass farm held appeal because it would not compete with terrestrial agriculture for space, water, or fertilizers. By 2100, one estimate held, humans could be farming thirty to fifty percent of the world’s oceans, providing for a world of fifty billion.
In this talk, I describe how the imaginary of offshore mariculture circulated in the United States after World War II and was central to environmental debates around planetary limits. I’ll make the case that ocean farms, as imagined in the twentieth century, were an extension of the modern plantation form. Following Wolford’s discussion of the Plantationocene, I suggest that marine farms served as a “discursive ideal” to organize society at global scales and around planetary systems. I conclude by linking “Plantationocene” discussions with Jasanoff and Kim’s definition of sociotechnical imaginaries. I suggest that mariculture was imagined as a way to institutionally re-stabilize a plantation imaginary in the United States at a moment when the oceans were recast as the nation’s new frontier.