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Why Not Talk About Justice? The Current Debate on Deep-Sea Mining

Rivera, M., Schmidt, O. (2019): Why Not Talk About Justice? The Current Debate on Deep-Sea Mining - Proceedings, Workshop: Narratives and Practices of Environmental Justice (Kiel 2019).


http://publications.iass-potsdam.de/pubman/item/escidoc:4590890
Resources

4590890.pdf
(Publisher version), 487KB

https://idw-online.de/en/event63870
(Supplementary material)

IASS-Authors
http://publications.iass-potsdam.de/cone/persons/resource/103

Rivera ,  Manuel
IASS Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies Potsdam;

http://publications.iass-potsdam.de/cone/persons/resource/119

Schmidt ,  Oscar
IASS Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies Potsdam;

Abstract
With the emergence in the 1960s of international interest in the exploitation of deep-sea mineral resources, a majority of the actors involved at the time quickly established a position strongly oriented towards global justice with regard to the distribution of possible profits from this novel activity. The idea that people in the developing countries of the global South, in particular, should benefit from the treasures from the ocean floor finally found its way into the International Convention on the Law of the Sea in the form of the "Common Heritage of Mankind" principle. Current discussions on the subject of deep-sea mining (DSM) also point to areas of conflict which, at least in theory, are closely linked to central issues of environmental justice. Negotiations currently underway at the International Seabed Authority on the regulation of DSM, for example, are being held on both the fair distribution of costs and risks and the fair access to and distribution of possible profits from mining. In this context, questions of procedural justice also arise time and again. Our paper examines the question to what extent and in what way debates on justice and other value references find their way into broader public discourse on DSM. On the basis of a content analysis of documents from the fields of media, business, civil society, science and politics, we draw a picture of dominant discursive positions and their narrative structures. Working with Greimas's actantial model and Burke's dramatistic pentad, we pay particular attention to value references through acts and goals described in the narratives, i.e., the qualities and motives assigned to protagonists and their actions. As a result, we find that the discussion on global justice, which was originally so central in the DSM discourse, hardly plays a noteworthy role today. Instead, both supporters and opponents of technical exploitation of the deep sea are far more likely to find references to various motives for protection. The respective stories can be read as "narratives of fear." We discuss possible reasons that inhibit a global justice framing for DSM. We also discuss to what extent our observations apply to this singular case only and to what extent they share fundamental features with other realms where it is difficult to create effective narratives that link global sustainability scenarios with justice.