Degrowth and the Blue Belt: rethinking marine conservation in the British Overseas Territories

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The UK Government has developed a ‘Blue Belt’, a network of large Marine Protected Areas involving seven British Overseas Territories. The Blue Belt is now one of the world's largest enclosures of space for conservation, enclosing four million km2 of ocean in some of the most remote spaces on earth. To be economically feasible, the UK's bold conservation targets are integrated with wider tourism, fishing, and economic growth-motivated governance agendas. This commentary argues for a degrowth alternative to the Blue Belt's development. The goal of degrowth is not to prevent increases in Gross Domestic Product, nor is degrowth the equivalent to recession in a growth economy. Sustainable degrowth provides a conservation framework for ensuring a just transition from neoliberal forms of governance that places local well-being and welfare needs above the interests of state actors, private investors, and holiday makers. In the current context of the Blue Belt, the commentary considers three nascent degrowth concepts for improving things: 1) blue degrowth, 2) degrowth tourism, and 3) degrowth environmental governance. The paper argues that instead of separating the UK from other spaces where biodiversity targets are realised, these targets should be used as opportunities to reconcile the UK's colonial relationships with the territories, to build local capacity, and resilience.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105290
Pages (from-to)105290
JournalOcean and Coastal Management
Early online date23 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


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