Skip to content

First Annual Berkeley Colloquium on Seasteading & Marine Biology

September 21, 2017

I never get email at my old seasteading address. It’s been three years since I was staff writer at the Institute, but I got a note out of the blue this month from a French marine biologist in the Bay Area (“on mission … at NASA”). Dr. Virginie Tilot de Grissac wanted to meet some seasteaders. She seemed (from my Googling) to be a genuine intellectual – a curious academic, whose papers and conference talks are motivated by a desire to find out something previously unknown. She’s also been to the deepest explored parts of the ocean, and seen plants that grow with no sunlight – only hydrothermal energy.

I punted to Joe Quirk (President of The Seasteading Institute), but there were no events happening when Virginie was available. “Hey,” I thought, “why not invite her *and* Joe, and whoever else wants to come, to lunch at the Berkeley Marina?” There’s no better place to talk about the future of oceans/governance than aboard Tara, the stoutest little sloop on J Dock.

Virginie came with her old childhood friend, Michael Gomez – a Bay Area native and fellow marine biologist. She mentioned that it was a trip with Michael to the aquarium with their mothers that first made her want to be a marine biologist. This led to a conversation about what inspires change. The Cold War “space race” narrative gave us a whole generation of kids that grew up into crazy adults that want to colonize Mars.

Michael told us about “Resilient by Design,” through which the Rockefeller Foundation is dividing a $4.6 million grant among 10 teams, who are competing to come up with the best solutions to improve the Bay’s resilience to natural disaster and sea-level rise.

Virginie and Joe discovered a mutual friend in Pascal Erhel Hatuuku, a seasteading ambassador from French Polynesia who identifies as Marquisian, and proposed floating islands in the South Pacific four years before The Seasteading Institute was founded (see his  mostly French seasteading talk). I haven’t met him, but the fact that he uses a Moana screenshot on his powerpoint makes me think we’d get along. If you haven’t seen it, Moana is Disney’s latest blockbuster. It will inspire you to venture beyond the fake boundaries we set up when we lose touch with our ancestors’ wisdom.

We were also visited by one of J Dock’s bolder seagulls, who was attracted by our DIY sushi (canned salmon, arborio rice, and seaweed snacks), bringing our colloquium up to five participants.


Watching… Waiting…

Virginie made known her intention to put together a conference at UNESCO Paris, titled, “A multi-sectoral strategy for Island communities facing climate change.” UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Consider me a skeptic on some counts. In my mind, the U.N. stands for a certain “talking over doing” approach, not to mention its reverence of global governance that stifles the trial and error needed from many independent countries to discover what works. But if Virginie – a doer and original thinker – is representative of her colleagues, the conference could produce some interesting results.

As an aside: UNESCO’s Twitter feed is abuzz, since today is Peace Day, apparently. I liked this image they shared:


If any Bay Area-ites want to co-host another “first annual” colloquium on something seasteading-related, drop a line in the comments.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: