Geoengineering at the ‘edge of the world’: exploring perceptions of ocean fertilization through the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation

Produced as part of the Managing climate risks and uncertainties and strengthening climate services CCCEP research programme theme

This paper describes an opportunistic case study of the 2012 Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation’s ocean fertilization project. Anchored in notions of place and identity, the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation marks a novel entry point into social research on geoengineering, which enables a more situated engagement with ocean fertilization, in keeping with geographical traditions.

The paper adopts an innovative design that combines ethnography with Q-Methodology, to identify clusters of shared meaning around the way in which contestation surrounding the geoengineering ambitions of the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation invoked different interpretations about the role and nature of ‘nature’ and human agency. This case study suggests that ‘geoengineering’ will always be performed and interpreted through contextually specific meanings and such local particularities as geography, people, practices and place. Nevertheless, interpretative resources that have been described in relation to a range of geoengineering technologies, (including solar radiation management proposals), through earlier, and less situated, social science literatures, are also traced from this place-based experience of geoengineering.

The authors suggest that their Q-Methodology factors have some interpretative overlap with ideal-typical ‘worldview’ heuristics, used to describe contemporary Western cultural currents in earlier literatures. This connects ocean fertilization in Haida Gwaii with debates about other geoengineering technologies and with wider cultural meanings and literatures that consider the human relationship with nature. They suggest that the Q-factors may serve as useful mnemonics for helping to conceptualise some of the deeper contested values and assumptions that drive public contestation about geoengineering.

ISSN 2515-5717 (Online) – Grantham Research Institute Working Paper series

ISSN 2515-5709 (Online) – CCCEP Working Paper series