Date of Award

2015

First Advisor

Christopher Coggins

Second Advisor

Paul Naamon

Abstract

This thesis examines the social, economic, and environmental impacts of the proliferation of plastic. The development and growth of disposable commodities throughout the globalized economy has created an environmental crisis that is particularly acute in the context of the world’s oceans. Examining the impacts of plastics specifically in relation to pelagic seabirds in the Pacific Ocean provides insight into the dynamic nature of plastic as a global phenomenon and agent of environmental degradation. Adopting the perspective of political ecology, this thesis also attempts to understand the global framework within which people produce and consume disposable goods, recognizing that commodities, particularly plastics, exist in a web of interconnections and impose social, environmental, and economic costs beyond the monetary value assigned to the products themselves. Ultimately, the solution to the plastic pollution crisis will require sweeping reforms in the regulations for production, consumption, and disposal. This thesis addresses such reforms as they bear especially on the Pacific Garbage Patch

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