Repoliticizing the Sustainability of the Ocean Economy
The ocean is under increasing pressure from the growth of the global economy, resulting in severe social and environmental impacts, for which high-income nations are disproportionately responsible. In recent years, several international actors including think tanks, governments, financial institutions, and eNGOs have been promoting the ocean as the latest global economic frontier, and as a key asset in the resolution of humanity’s most pressing social and environmental problems. In this context, the terms ‘blue economy’ and ‘blue growth’ are mobilized as discursive platforms to publicize the economic importance and the future potential of the ocean space and and its resources. Blue growth proponents argue that new technologies, with proper market incentives and technocratic regulation, will allow for a sustainable expansion of the ocean economy, further decoupling environmental impacts from global economic growth. As a response, Blue Degrowth is proposed as a counter-paradigm to the mainstreaming of oceanic growthism in academia, policy circles, and public opinion. This review paper gives an overview of the re-emergence of the sea as a site for contemporary visions and projects of growth and of radical critiques that defend social and environmental limits to the expansion of the ocean economy. It concludes by articulating Blue Degrowth as part of a mosaic of alternative and emancipatory visions and practices of relating to the sea that are not based upon enclosure, extractivism and the destruction of marine ecosystems but rather on social justice and ecological wellbeing.