Conference themes

The 2021 Our Coastal Futures conference celebrates four main themes exploring our understanding of the oceans, the communities they support and their diverse ecosystems. 

Man on rowboat at sunset


What we Know

Ontology is the study of the nature and ways of ‘being’. This theme begins with the provocative imperative that ontological transitions are required to give ‘us’ a future.

We ask for contributions that enquire into oceanic and coastal pasts, presents and futures through an ontological (way of being) and epistemological (way of knowing) viewpoint. We are particularly encouraging discussions on the role of modernity and its darker side and colonialism in shaping ways of being and knowing around the globe.

What modes of producing knowledge, systems, images, significance, patterns of expression and beliefs seduce and repress societies, and how does this live on in our relationship with oceans and coasts?

What multiple truths exist of our oceans and coasts, how do these truths mingle, co-exist and design new perceptions? This theme raises the stakes and asks what ontologies de-fuse and re-fuse our genes, cultures and evolutionary relationships with our oceans and coasts?

In spite of such upheaval, what multiple cosmologies and ontologies remain and emerge as options to navigate our coastal futures?

aerial view of sea wall


Understanding from Diverse Knowledge Systems

Transitions, in general, are seen as large-scale changes over a long period of time, with often significant and revolutionary symptoms that fundamentally change a social subsystem.

The theme of ‘transitioning sciences’ for oceans and coasts, therefore, implies fundamental shifts in perceptions, values and cognitions about the role of science in society.

Coastal communities already face escalating risks, disasters and threats to livelihoods due to environmental degradation, ocean acidification, and climate change impacts including sea-level rise. Addressing these challenges requires a different modality of science, which links different disciplines, knowledge systems and societal partners.

Linkages between western constructs of science, indigenous, tacit and local forms of knowledge, can reframe worldviews, necessary to shape transitions that are invariably deeply political and contested.

Our Coastal Futures provides a unique opportunity to engage in this discourse with a rich diversity of actors; and to explore the synergies in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Maths and the Humanities in the pursuit of sustainability science for the oceans and coasts.

Aerial view of coastal zone and housing


Prosperity and Livelihoods

Our Coastal Futures will explore innovative ways of transitioning the economies of our oceans and coasts by taking a holistic view of how to sustain the many forms of coastal and ocean livelihoods.

Blue Growth, depending on interpretation, provides opportunities in emerging sectors, such as offshore aquaculture and marine renewable energy, with potential socio-economic benefits for peripheral coastal communities.

These developments are linked to technological breakthroughs, new forms of ethical investment, ‘green’ finance, and entrepreneurial endeavour.

However, economic transitions require a more fundamental root and branch review of the failure of neo-classical economics, globalisation, and market drivers such as the behavioural drivers that drive unsustainable patterns of consumption and production of coastal and marine resources.

The conference provides a space to consider knowledge from fields such as development, resource and ecological economics, together with philosophical, political and psychological dimensions of a new Blue Economy, with social justice and equity at the core.

abstract designs overlay on ocean


Mutually Beneficial Interactions

Reciprocity is about the interactions and inter-relationships within and between ocean and coastal systems. To engage in our oceans and coasts in a relational way there is a need to respect these environments as complex ‘lifeworlds’.

This is to acknowledge we are in a reciprocal exchange with our oceans and coasts. We are in dialogue with a biosphere upon which we depend. This theme seeks contributions exploring reciprocal relationships with these environments as lifeworlds.

How does the agency in these lifeworlds change us, as much as we change them, and in this exchange what is sustained and what is destroyed?

This is an opportunity to engage in questions about our coastal futures from divergent as well as a systemic, holistic worldview that crosses fields as diverse as Indigenous Knowledge, sustainability sciences, complexity theory, deep ecology, critical design and systems thinking.