The Lives and Afterlives of Plastic: A nearly carbon-neutral conference
June 26th – July 14th 2017
More plastic was produced in the past decade than during the entire 20th century. We currently produce over 300 million tonnes of plastic each year. We have built a world in which we are reliant on plastic for our medical health and everyday functioning, and yet we are also coming to realise that the global explosion of plastic has revealed a dark side. Currently, only 14% of the hundreds of millions of tonnes of plastic we produce annually is recycled. As a result, vast amounts of plastic currently accumulate within oceanic gyres, landfills, and other environments, leading to the dire prediction that there will be more plastic than fish by weight in the world’s oceans by 2050. The production of plastic is a significant driver of fossil fuel consumption, with approximately 8% of global oil production dedicated to the production of plastics. A growing body of research is revealing how endocrine disrupting chemicals and microplastics in aquatic ecosystems are impacting fauna and food safety in often unpredictable ways. The production, consumption, and accumulation of plastic also raises ethical questions associated with health, pollution, and inequality. 500 billion single-use plastic bags are consumed annually around the world. 28,500 tonnes of expanded polystyrene (EPS) was produced in 2014, 90% of which was used to make single-use products. The bulk of single-use EPS waste is not recycled. The sheer volume of single-use plastics produced and consumed globally is emblematic of the planned obsolescence that characterises linear economies.
The complexities inherent in the ways in which plastic is produced, consumed, and discarded are never purely material, social, nor stable. As such, addressing the social and environmental issues surrounding plastic requires an interdisciplinary focus that crosses the traditional divisions between the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities. This nearly-carbon neutral conference aims to encourage presentations that articulate the value and challenges constitutive of such interdisciplinary collaborations.
We welcome contributors who hail from a broad range of disciplines: marine and freshwater ecologists, artists, engineers, anthropologists, green chemists, environmental psychologists, designers, toxicologists, sociologists, endocrinologists, zoologists, geographers, environmental managers, development practitioners, biologists, economists, media and communications experts, and environmental activists to name a few.
The conference organisers envisage that contributions will cover a similarly broad range of plastic-related themes including, but not limited to, the following:
Policy and legislation
Food packaging and labelling
Zero waste and the circular economy
Human and non-human health
A new plastic economy
Cultures of waste
Nearly carbon-neutral conference format
Traditional academic conferences are responsible for a considerable amount of carbon emissions, as presenters fly from around the world to present in a single location. This also incurs significant financial costs, which often precludes researchers from developing countries and postgraduate students from attending. The Environmental Humanities Initiative at UC Santa Barbara estimated that running an online conference reduces the carbon footprint of a conference by 99%.
This conference will take place entirely online from 26 June-14 July, 2017. Contributors will not have to travel anywhere and there is no registration fee. Conference presentations will consist of material that can be submitted online as a video file. This could take the form of a webcam recording, an edited video, a PowerPoint or Prezi with recorded audio or another form of video. Each presentation should be no more than 20 minutes long. Simple, user-friendly instructions on creating and submitting presentations for the conference will be provided on acceptance of abstracts.
One of the key aims of this conference is to facilitate interdisciplinary networking opportunities that will provide further support and context to attendees’ current and future plastic-related research projects. One way of facilitating these networks is by providing presenters and registered attendees with ample opportunities for Q&A following each panel. The Environmental Humanities Initiative white paper showed that presenters and attendees at their carbon-neutral conference were provided with many more opportunities to ask questions and receive feedback than most traditional conferences.
Contributor profiles with research interests, expertise, and contact details will be made available to registered attendees. The conference organisers hope that attendees will identify synergies across profiles and presentations and will contact individuals to determine the potential for research collaborations.
Abstract deadline and details
If you are interested in presenting at the conference, please send a 250 word abstract with your name, e-mail address, and affiliation to PERC@massey.ac.nz by 20 February, 2017.
After the conference, some contributors will be invited to develop their presentations for publication in an edited volume. Preference for publication in the edited volume will be given to papers presenting research collaborations between arts/social science researchers and fundamental/natural scientists. We hope some of these research collaborations will emerge out of the conference.
Dr Trisia Farrelly & Dr Sy Taffel