‘40 Million Salmon Might Be Wrong’
: Ecological Worldviews and Geoengineering Technologies: The Case of the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis employs Hedlund-de Witt’s (e.g. 2012) Integrative Worldviews Framework as an interpretative lens to explore the ways in which diverse ontological, epistemological and axiological assumptions about the role and nature of ‘nature’ and human agency can be interpreted from ‘geoengineering’ discourse.

It does so through an opportunistic case study of the 2012 Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation’s ocean fertilization project. The HSRC case study, anchored in notions of place and identity, marks a novel entry point into social research on geoengineering and facilitates a more situated engagement with geoengineering in keeping with the traditions and tools of ethnography and geography.

Through an ‘informed grounded theory’ approach to analysis of the case-study discourse, bolstered by an interpretivist application of Q-Methodology, this thesis develops 7 issue-frames and 3 Qfactors that invoke different interpretations about what it means to be human, about the ‘natural’ or ‘artificial’ quality of technological mediation of the environment and about how knowledge gains legitimacy.

This thesis suggests that ‘geoengineering’ will always be performed and expressed through unique ‘surface contents’ and contextually specific meanings. However, interpretative resources described in relation to a range of other geoengineering proposals and through more abstract entry points into thinking about geoengineering also find salience through the study frames. ‘Geoengineering’ in Haida Gwaii connects with wider cultural meanings and literatures that consider the human relationship with nature. Furthermore, the study factors are suggested to have some interpretative overlap with ideal-typical ‘worldview’ heuristics described in earlier literatures that have sought to describe dominant currents of cultural meaning in contemporary Western society.

These factors therefore may serve as useful orienting heuristics for conceptualising general homologies of deeper, shared forms of reasoning about the role and nature of ‘nature’ and human agency shaping wider public contestation about geoengineering. Such ‘ecological worldview’ heuristics might help facilitate greater reflexivity in decision-making, but their limitations must remain at the heart of their application. Further research is needed to establish their usefulness for other geoengineering technologies and in other cultural contexts.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorGeorge Adamson (Supervisor) & Michael Hulme (Supervisor)

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