Former PhD student Andrew Merrie commissioned Swedish conceptual artist Simon Stålenhag to bring a set of narrative scenarios about the future oceans to life. Image: S. Stålenhag


ART AND SCIENCE

Marine science through the eyes of sci-fi

Former PhD student turns to sci-fi to envision the future of our oceans

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Sometimes science fiction can attract attention where scientific papers fail. Andrew Merrie, a freshly graduated PhD student now working with SRC communications, commissioned conceptual artist Simon Stålenhag to bring a set of narrative scenarios about the future oceans to life. Stålenhag came up with four eerie and thought-provoking images. Two of the scenarios represent more utopian futures, the other two are more dystopian. They are written as speculative fiction in different, engaging narrative styles: a travel magazine article, an obituary, the transcript of a “TED”-like talk, and a series of recovered journal entries.

Merrie recognizes the need to not only understand what’s happening in terms of climate change and marine ecosystems, but also look at how these projected changes will impact human societies and the global fishing industry.

“These images can be used as entry points to the science,” says Andrew Merrie.

“While they are fictional scenarios they draw on ecological, technological, socio-economic and governance trends and are built on a rich and deep scientific evidence base.”

The collaboration with Stålenhag is part of an ongoing science-communications project called ‘Radical Ocean Futures.’ It is also part of Merrie’s PhD dissertation - “Global Ocean Futures: Governance of marine fisheries in the Anthropocene.”

The project was financed through a science communications grant from The Swedish Research Council Formas and recently featured on WIRED.

“Rime of the Last Fisherman” by Simon Stålenhag. This scenario shows a dismal future where the ocean becomes all but dead; a lone fisherman scribbles down his thoughts as he lives through it.

“Fish Inc” shows the logical extreme of ideas around “the blue economy” and “farming the seas”. The ocean has become a place for factories; a large tank is filled with jellyfish being turned into nutrient pastes.

“Oceans Back from the Brink” by Simon Stålenhag. This image shows healthy oceans back from the brink of disaster, with healthy ecosystems and well-managed fisheries. This scenario even has robots working to clean up the ocean and restore coral reef ecosystems. A coming together of human ingenuity and ecologically literate technology.

“Rising Tide” by Simon Stålenhag. This image shows a healthier future ocean where nations and communities come together in the Pacific Ocean to build a new society and live under the oceans in the face of rising sea levels.

Related info

Andrew Merrie member of the SRC communications team, he finished his PhD in sustainability science in April 2016. His PhD thesis was entitled “Global Ocean Futures: Governance of marine fisheries in the Anthropocene.” The thesis focuses on challenges in global governance of the oceans with a focus on marine fisheries.

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