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Ambio

, Volume 48, Issue 8, pp 855–866 | Cite as

Embracing an interdisciplinary approach to plastics pollution awareness and action

  • Sara L. BelontzEmail author
  • Patricia L. Corcoran
  • Heather Davis
  • Kathleen A. Hill
  • Kelly Jazvac
  • Kirsty Robertson
  • Kelly Wood
Perspective

Abstract

This paper considers how an interdisciplinary approach to the “wicked problem” of plastics pollution offers unique and important collaborative possibilities. Specially, the paper considers the approach of the Synthetic Collective, a group comprising artists, humanities scholars, and scientists. Considering first how artists and scientists might respond differently to tracking, mapping, understanding, and representing plastics pollution, we then look for potential points of commonality across disciplinary difference. In respect to the urgent and multifaceted problem of marine plastics pollution in the Great Lakes region, we ask what are some of the successes and pitfalls of bringing together diverse approaches and interests? The paper concludes with a clear strategy: a set of instructions geared towards building successful interdisciplinary collaborations. Ultimately, we conclude that a strong relationship amongst scientists and artists is possible, fruitful, and indeed warranted when shared goals are the driving principle of the group.

Keywords

Arts Humanities Interdisciplinary Plastics pollution Sciences Wicked problem 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge the funding support received from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). We also thank the many researchers who have contributed to the mission of the Synthetic Collective, especially Drs. Lorena Rios, Paul Helm, Max Liboiron, Sara Seck, and Elizabeth Gillies. Lastly, we are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their useful suggestions that improved the paper.

Supplementary material

13280_2018_1126_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (849 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 848 kb)

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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara L. Belontz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Patricia L. Corcoran
    • 1
  • Heather Davis
    • 2
  • Kathleen A. Hill
    • 3
  • Kelly Jazvac
    • 4
  • Kirsty Robertson
    • 5
  • Kelly Wood
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  2. 2.Eugene Lang CollegeThe New SchoolNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  4. 4.Department of Studio ArtsConcordia UniversityMontrealCanada
  5. 5.Department of Visual ArtsUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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