Aside from occasionally popping up as a topic, for example in relation to plastics, oil-spills, or occasional references to melting glaciers, the oceans are often a "forgotten space" for many otherwise inspiring social movements. But the oceans have had a central and changing role across different moments.
The global ocean has through the centuries served as a trade route, strategic space, fish bank and supply chain for the modern capitalist economy. While sea beds are drilled for their fossil fuels and minerals, and coastlines developed for real estate and leisure, the oceans continue to absorb the toxic discharges of our carbon civilisation—warming, expanding, and acidifying the blue water part of the planet in ways that will bring unpredictable but irreversible consequences for the rest of the biosphere.
Here at the State of power podcast, we are concerned with the ways in which power functions, on land and on the sea. With the United Nations Oceans Conference coming up between 27 June and 1 July, we thought this would be as good a time as any to take a closer look at the oceans that make up more than 70% of our planet’s surface.
What is the relation between contemporary social, environmental, climate, economic crises and the oceans?
Also, who is benefitting from all of this exploitation of the oceans, and how? Who are the capitalists at sea and what are their strategies? What types of acts of resistance and struggle exist against these interests - historically and today?
Liam Campling and Alex Colas, are the authors of the book, Capitalism and the Sea: The Maritime Factor in the Making of the Modern World
In their book, which deals with the political economy, ecology and geopolitics of the sea, the authors argue that the earth’s geographical separation into land and sea has significant consequences for capitalist development. The distinctive features of this mode of production continuously seek to transcend the land-sea binary in an incessant quest for profit, engendering new alignments of sovereignty, exploitation and appropriation in the capture and coding of maritime spaces and resources.
Here they are in conversation with Mads Barbesgaard, who is a researcher with TNI working on struggles around the use and control of land and ocean resources in the midst of the energy transition. Mads is also an Associate Senior Lecturer at the Department of Human Geography, at Lund University in Sweden.