Blue Pacific, Polluted Ocean

AUTHOR(S)
Environment

Abstract: In this essay, the author explores a cruel paradox. Pacific nations are increasingly deploying the language of the Blue Pacific to stress their solidarity and sovereignty, especially in the face of climate change. This evocation of the connecting power of the ocean in regional and global fora engages the visions of scholars of Pacific ancestry starting with Epeli Hau’ofa’s revisioning of Oceania as ‘Our Sea of Islands’ in 1993. It has proved a potent discourse, as witnessed in the Pacific Island Forum Leaders’ meeting in Tuvalu in 2019. Yet Pacific people are simultaneously grappling with the legacy of colonialism and capitalism which has massively polluted their ocean – with plastic, nuclear contamination, and the warming and acidification of the ocean associated with climate change. The global inequalities and divisions created by a colonising capitalism and the burgeoning power and hubris of fossil-fuelled political economies are both cause and consequence of all three. This confluence of pollutants is also a crucial aspect of what Pacific peoples are seeking to redress through political leadership and diplomacy, claims of loss and damage, everyday practices of eschewing plastic and ‘cleaning up’ and through creative resistance in the arts.

Research Type(s)
Journal Article
Submitted by Margaret Jolly
June 17, 2022
Published in
2021
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