Scripted as a sustainable alternative to terrestrial mining, the licence for the world’s first commercial deep-sea mining (DSM) site was issued in Papua New Guinea in 2011 to extract copper and gold from a deposit situated 1600 m below the surface of the Bismarck Sea. Whilst DSM’s proponents locate it as emergent part of a blue economy narrative, its critics point to the ecological and economic uncertainty that characterises the proposed practice. Yet, due its extreme geography, DSM is also profoundly elusive to direct human experience and thus presents a challenge to forms of resistance against an industry extolled as having ‘no human impact’. Against this background, this paper analyses the ways in which ‘blue degrowth’—as a distinct form of counter-narrative—might be ‘performed’, and which imagined (and alternative) geographies are invoked accordingly. To do this it critically reflects upon 2 years of participatory research in the Duke of York Islands focusing on three, community-developed methods of resisting DSM. Practices of counter mapping, sculpture and participatory drama all sought to ‘perform’ the deep-ocean environment imagined as relational whilst simultaneously questioning the very notion of ‘economy’ central to the discourse of ‘blue growth’.
Sustainability Science, vol. 15, 2020