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Marine environments and global environmental change: Oceans, science, and technology in non-fiction literature, 1950s to the present

This research project examines narratives about marine environments and global environmental change. Oceans are key indicators of global environmental change and play a central role both as affected by and impacting on the earth’s climate, especially the high seas with its vast volumes of water. At the same time, the high seas are a difficult environment for us to address, govern and protect.


Marine biologist Robert Callum has argued that the way we have understood the ocean in the past, as something that is so remote and vast that it must be immune to human impact, needs to be radically changed in order to facilitate more and better marine policies and protection. To effect that change, we need not just new science and technologies, but also profoundly new stories and narratives that can transform how we regard the sea.

Where are such narratives found and formed? This project examines one such place, namely literary non-fiction (or popular science books) about the sea, aimed to bridge scientific knowledge and public awareness. Starting with Rachel Carson's sea trilogy from the 1950s, the project examines key ideas that inform these narratives and how they have changed in relation to increasing environmental awareness and debate in recent decades.

Funding agency: Formas

Duration: 2018-2020

Rachel Carson conducts Marine Biology Research with Bob Hines — in the Atlantic (1952).