In the Pacific Islands, whose people contribute the least to global warming, but are facing its most severe effects, impacts from climate change are far from a future scenario. Here, in the great maritime region of Oceania, the future is today. The MARE NULLIUS project aims to build new and urgent interdisciplinary analysis of one of the greatest challenges of our time: how Pacific islanders and their states prepare for, and react to, the threatened demise of their sovereign land and sea territories from the effects of climate change. Sea-level rise and erosion of land combine to create a volatile situation not documented historically: entire nations risk the partial or total loss of their land, and the fate of their ocean territories as Exclusive Economic Zones defined by extent from the land as baselines is uncertain – as is the citizenship of those whose low-lying islands are at threat. The scenario of impending loss and damage is disturbing, to say the least. Concurrently the island countries of the Pacific represent themselves as Big Ocean States – a powerful alternative to the UN category of SIDS (Small Island Developing States) – and engage in high-profile global diplomacy and activism to safeguard their ocean. In this project the concept of mare nullius – ocean owned by no one, an antithesis to EEZ sovereignty – guides an ambitious agenda of interdisciplinary research. How can the Big Ocean States of the Pacific retain their sovereign seas? How can the people of atoll nations threatened by sea-level rise retain their citizenship?

The question mark in the project title points to the uncertain future of the huge EEZs of Oceania. Five fields of inquiry form an interrelated whole, where cutting-edge research and close policy engagement are intertwined:

1. People of the Sea, People at Sea: Climate change, migration and transformations of sovereignty
2. Mare nullius in the making? Monitoring sea levels and modelling EEZs
3. Counteracting mare nullius: Pacific efforts to record, revise and secure EEZs
4. Treaties and the global compression of climate change politics
5. Our Sea of Islands: Pacific cultural heritage and global climate change

From oceanography to poetry: With a foundation in Pacific-grounded anthropology, MARE NULLIUS draws social sciences, humanities,law and natural sciences together in deep encounters with Pacific knowledges. New dialogues are created wherever the Pacific Ocean is at stake: from beaches in Oceania to the United Nations Headquarters.




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