Secrets of the Sea in Times of Climate Breakdown

Despite its many secrets and wonders, oceans have been under threat for years. Corals are dying and sea life is disappearing. Although this is a global phenomenon, some people are affected more than others—and as with many a climate issue, these inequalities bear witness of the afterlife of (post)colonialism. In this talk, we shed light on the ambiguous nature of marine protection and the colonial dimensions of ocean health.

If we continue the way we do, the island of Bonaire will be under water in about 60 to 70 years. Yet, as with other crises, people tend to look away as long as the problem does not hit home. In this NIAS Talk we take a deep dive in our ideas of the ocean. How can we rethink human relations with the sea? Why do we need to be aware of ocean health? And in what ways has colonialism shaped our minds and dealings with the sea?

There is more about the sea we don’t know than we do. Yet, it could be that exactly our ideas of the sea’s “endlessness” have contributed to today’s climate breakdown. While we have practically discovered every inch of the earth’s terrestrial surface, the immense volume of our oceans still keeps secrets for humankind. What can we know—and, from there, what must we do?

About the speakers

Yvonne Kunz is a Human Geographer at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV). Kunz is coordinator of the KITLV-NIOO-NIAS Theme Group that investigates Climate Change and the Governance of Tropical Marine Protected Areas.

Eric Mijts is specialised in Development Studies and works at the University of Aruba. During his fellowship at NIAS, Mijts explores how communities that are affected by or involved in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) construct their appreciation of regulatory frameworks and to what extent the consequences of climate change affect this appreciation.

Rolando Vázquez Melken is a teacher and decolonial thinker. Vázquez’s work places the question of the possibility of an ethical life at the core of decolonial thought and advocates for the decolonial transformation of cultural and educational institutions. Vázquez is currently Associate Professor of Sociology and Cluster Chair at the University College Utrecht.

Michael Tedja is a writer, poet, artist and curator. During his fellowship as writer-in-residence at NIAS, he works on a family (art) history. During this talk he will read a poem on the sea, written during his residency.

Geert Buelens is a Flemish poet, essayist, columnist and Professor of Modern Dutch Literature at Utrecht University and a guest professor of Dutch Literature at Stellenbosch University (South Africa). Earlier this year, Buelens published Wat we toen al wisten in which he reflects on the environmental year 1972: the report Grenzen aan de groei of the Club of Rome, the first UN conference on the environment and other important scientific, political and cultural aspects of the global environmental crisis.

Nikki Dekker is schrijver en radiomaker. Ze publiceerde onder meer in TiradeDe Gids en De Revisor, en trad op tijdens Lowlands en Dichters in de Prinsentuin. In 2018 verscheen bij Wintertuin een voorwerp dat nog leeft, een bundeling essays en gedichten op het snijvlak van het persoonlijke en het politieke. Met haar radiodocumentaire De oppas en ik werd Dekker genomineerd voor de Prix Europa. diepdiepblauw is haar debuutroman.

Zará Kars (moderator) is a Public Historian and Programme Manager Arts & Science at NIAS.

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