Aquatic Imaginaries: Navigating Marine Debris. AAG NYC 2012.


2012 Sammler, K. Aquatic Imaginaries: Navigating Marine Debris. Association of American Geographers, New York, NY 24–28 Feb.

ABSTRACT: Traditionally the ocean has been imagined as an endless resource, a vast invulnerable expanse, a non-place, as Steinberg says “a space ‘outside’ society…an abstract point on a grid, to be developed”. Efforts to territorialize the sea have borrowed from conventional terrestrial ordering, imposing a static grid to allocate resources to coastal nations. Managing the ocean as a static space has resulted in transboundary environmental degradation. The North Pacific Trash Gyre (NPTG) is one manifestation of this failure. Most ocean pollution originates on land. This waste, once at sea, becomes ephemeral and fragmented, characteristics that allow it to evade quantification and resist the Cartesian spatialities imposed upon it. Despite these ephemeral and fragmented characteristics, the NPTG is widely represented through a terrestrial geographic imaginary, adopting such categories as solid, visible, stationary – even as ‘an island twice the size of Texas’. By examining ocean categories, boundaries, and governance, this paper seeks to envision new strategies for assessing growing trash problems in the global ocean.

TRAVEL GRANTS: Institute of the Environment University of Arizona, $500.