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In fact a non-technical report. This report is an accessible summary of my PhD thesis entitled 'Investigating marine citizenship and its role in promoting good marine environmental health'. Background, methods, findings and conclusions are presented.
of the Sea
Investigating marine citizenship and its role in
promoting good marine environmental health.
A PhD Thesis Summary Report By Dr Pamela M. Buchan PhDJune 2021
This is a summary report of
my PhD thesis entitled
“Investigating marine
citizenship and its role in
creating good marine
environmental health.” The
purpose of this report is to
provide an accessible
narrative of the research
project and ndings prior to
deposit of the nal thesis in
the University of Exeter
repository, and to
publication of ndings in
scientic journals. To make
the report as accessible as
possible, I do not use
scientic referencing nor do
I present my ndings in a
technical manner. Where
needed, I signpost to the
original PhD thesis section,
where the full evidence and
literature are presented.
For any citation, I would
advise referring to the
original thesis and citing
as follows:
Buchan, P.M. (2021)
Investigating marine
citizenship and its role in
creating good marine
environmental health, PhD
Thesis, University of Exeter.
The thesis can be found in
the University of Exeter
thesis repository, Open
Research Exeter, at:
Marine citizenship has been proposed as a
useful policy approach to tackle the serious
contemporary problem of ocean degradation,
by engaging the general public to take
personal responsibility and change their
behaviours. In my PhD, I took an
interdisciplinary approach to investigate
marine citizenship in an holistic and
pragmatic way, to better understand how it
might contribute to improving marine
environmental health.
To understand marine citizenship, I drew on
environmental psychology, human geography,
environmental law, green political theory, and
sociology. I asked four research questions:
i. What is marine citizenship and who
participates in it?
ii. How are institutional policy frameworks
of marine citizenship understood,
interpreted and experienced by
iii. How do motivational and value-based
factors influence marine citizenship
iv. How do place-related factors influence
the practice of marine citizenship?
I used mixed methods to bring together a
range of quantitative and qualitative data. The
research design consisted of an online survey
of active marine citizens reached via three
case studies: two community marine groups
and one national citizen science project. This
was followed by ethnographic observation of
marine citizenship in practice and open-
ended interview. Interviewees were
purposively selected to maximise insight into
the diversity of marine citizens.
My ndings challenge prevailing
interpretations of marine citizenship as being
a set of pro-environmental behaviours that
can be promoted through education,
information, and awareness raising. Instead, I
argue that marine citizenship is a political
act which relates to the human-ocean
relationship in society. As such, people not
only have a responsibility to consider the
ocean in their citizen duties, but also have
a right to participate in shaping our
relationship with the ocean. In that light, I
focus on how current legislated participation
in marine environmental decision-making is
practiced, and how eective it is perceived to
be by marine citizens.
My data show that due to a complex of
interacting variables, there is no one kind of
person who becomes a marine citizen. Yet
Environmental Identity, stimulation and
conformity basic human values, climate
change concern, place attachment and, in
particular, place dependency are important
factors for deep marine citizenship. My
research uncovered a human anity with the
ocean through a unique marine place
attachment, or thalassophilia. Creating
opportunities for marine experiences
promotes attachment to the ocean and in
turn deeper marine citizenship.
Finally, taken together, the results collectively
point to a marine identity, formed through
ocean connectedness and enabled by
favourable socio-economic and policy
conditions. When associated with good ocean
health, marine identity can underpin and be
reinforced by marine citizenship. Marine
citizenship coincides with broader
environmental and civic citizenship; therefore
marine experience opportunities may
contribute to wider acceptance of policy
and public participation as we attempt to
mitigate and adapt to climate change in
the coming years.
There is no one
kind of person
who becomes a
marine citizen
The news reports daily on
the impacts of today’s global
environmental challenges.
Around the world,
governments at all scales are
committed to reducing
carbon emissions to reduce
the imminent impacts of
human-caused climate
change. One of the
challenges is that political
will requires public will,
which depends on a
complicated array of factors
and circumstances that
shape both people’s views of
environmental damage and
their ability and willingness
to take and support actions
to address it.
What is perhaps less
reported on is the major
signicance of the ocean for
climate change and the
degradation marine
ecosystems are suering
because of human actions.
The ocean is the climate’s
regulator. Coastal
communities around the
globe already experience the
direct consequences of
climate change, through the
impacts it has on the ocean.
Humans have placed such
pressure on ocean
environments that plastic
pollution is found in the
deepest of oceans, sh
stocks and marine mammal
populations around the
world teeter on the brink of
collapse, and there is wide-
scale destruction of
important habitats on the
sea bed and on reefs.
My PhD research was based
on two fundamental
premises. First, that a
sustainable future is both
desirable and necessary
for human society to
continue and for the earth
to be resilient to the
demands placed upon it.
Second, that we are all
individuals with some
capacity to make choices
about our actions in the
sphere of inuence in
which we exist, whether
this is our domestic home,
as a champion in our place
of work, or setting national
or international policy.
That capacity varies widely
between and within nations,
but in a hypothetical world
of marine citizens where the
health of the ocean is
important and valued, that
ethos will permeate through
societies and alter our
relationship with the ocean
to one of partnership rather
than exploitation.
Societal changes of this sort
are done through the
participation and consent of
the public, which exposes an
implicit requirement to
promote social justice so that
people’s ability to participate
in societal transformation
and to act as marine citizens
is not hampered by
inequality or lack of
opportunity. I make the case
for collective action in the
Review of the Literature
(Chapter 2) of my thesis.
Environmental education
has been the predominant
means of inuencing people
to make pro-environmental
Societal changes of this
sort are done through
the participation and
consent of the public
choices. This approach has typically drawn on
knowledge-decit theory, in which behaviours
are expected to change in response to new
information. However, history and a body of
scientic research indicate that there is no
direct relationship between education and
behaviour. I therefore open up the eld of
enquiry to investigate a broader range of
individuals’ motivations and capacities to make
choices that support marine environmental
health. In my research I cast the net wide, to
incorporate a range of disciplinary
approaches and inuential variables.
I have been asked in the past, why focus on
the ocean and not wider environment for this
study? The simple answer is that I love the
sea. The more complicated answer is
informed by the ndings of my research,
which responded to the question why do
other people love the sea? The need to be
near the sea has driven many of my own life
choices, so it clearly has capacity to attach
people with such strength that lives are
altered to accommodate it. Could the sea be a
gateway to wider environmental choices, or
even general civic participation? Many climate
change activists recommend thinking global
about the impacts of climate change, but
acting local where one has more control and
inuence. But the ocean is both local and
global at once, both lapping at our toes and
carrying our rubbish around the whole
planet. What might be the implications of this
merging of scales for engaging people in
environmental action? There has been
considerable traction, in the UK at least,
around the issue of marine plastic pollution,
which has led directly to government-led
policy changes such as plastic bag charges
and phasing out of certain single use plastics.
Though they are less exposed to marine
degradation, even those who don’t live near
the sea impact upon it through carbon
emissions and waste. The marine plastic
pollution agenda shows non-coastal residents
share concerns about ocean degradation.
With these issues and perspectives in mind,
my investigation into marine citizenship was
broad, looking at the social understanding of
and policy framework relating to marine
citizenship; internal person-based factors;
and the particular role of the sea as a place.
My research approach built upon avenues of
enquiry such as:
Marine and wider environmental
Environmental awareness and public
perceptions research, which looks at
public views about the ocean and human
impacts upon it;
Environmental education and ocean
literacy, which are concerned with
baseline understanding of the
environment and ocean and equipping
people with skills needed to make pro-
environmental decisions;
Political and legal frameworks of
citizenship and public participation in
Psychological and human geographical
investigations of environmental values
and people-place relationships.
The ocean is
both local and
global at once
“I think citizenship is
about taking part,
keeping your own
knowledge up to date,
sharing that with
other people, helping
reach out to different
groups of people”
This report does not go into the ne details of
epistemology and methodology. Full details of
these can be found in Methodology (Chapter
3) of my thesis. However, I do want to broadly
introduce the approach I took, because it was
not typical of environmental science research.
First, I drew on an environmental
pragmatist research position. In simple
terms, pragmatism engages with multiple
ways of learning and approaching problems.
One methodology or discipline isn’t privileged
over another, and any approach which adds
knowledge and highlights potential solutions
is considered to be useful. It is a pluralistic
way of doing research, and plurality is a key
ethos throughout my research. In part my
plurality comes from my position as a
researcher. Bringing together my marine
biology past, with my career in public
engagement with science and volunteer
management, and my interest in politics and
democratisation of science.
Within pragmatism, I have specically drawn
on the post-normal science approach to
research. The easiest way to describe post-
normal science, is to describe what it is not.
‘Normal’ science is the typical scientic
method approach to problem-solving.
Controlled experiments are conducted, data
is gathered, statistical analyses are
performed, and ndings are produced which
can be applied to the real world. A key feature
is controlling the variables, reducing the
noise, and seeking clear associations between
variables. However, today’s problems at the
interface of science and society are often of a
broad scale complexity, in which variables
cannot be controlled and mathematical
associations cannot be determined. In
science-society interface problems, we often
have questions about morality rather than
numbers, and have to navigate conict
between rights and experiences which do not
have mathematical answers.
Post-normal science is considered by its
proponents as more eective at addressing
these ‘wicked’ problems. It is recommended
by its proponents for science-society
problems that are uncertain, high risk, and
high stakes. To address these problems, post-
normal science advocates for an extended
peer community and plurality of knowledge.
By increasing the participation of a diversity
of people and perspectives, much more can
be understood about the nature of the
problem, and there is a bigger creative space
for innovative solutions to develop. Through
deliberative processes, seemingly intransigent
problems can be negotiated. Where there are
gaps in data, local or traditional knowledge
and experiences can be sought to create a
more complete understanding of the
problem. And through engagement and co-
production, solutions are legitimised and
more strongly supported.
I adopted these principles of an extended peer
community and plurality of knowledge in my
research, through interdisciplinarity and through
a mixed methods approach. Building on prior
research engaging marine professionals in
their views on marine citizenship, I extended
the peer community to one of active marine
citizens (people who are actively engaged
in pro-marine environmental behaviours
and actions). The participants were identied
via marine case studies of local and regional
marine groups and a national citizen science
project. This enabled me to uncover the
experiences, values, and events that led these
people to become active marine citizens and
to identify not only the commonalities but
also the dierences between them,
demonstrating that there is not only one
single type of person who can become a
marine citizen. I looked at marine citizenship
holistically, from within the person, within
society, and the role of the ocean itself. I used
the language of citizenship – a political
concept and act – to examine the role of
marine citizenship in society and for positive
marine environmental outcomes.
I used methodological techniques and
evidence drawn from environmental
psychology, environmental law, green politics,
and human geography. And I collected
quantitative and qualitative data through
surveys and interviews, so that I could both
We often have
questions about
morality rather
than numbers
deploy standard psychometric tests and
investigate demographics, whilst also looking
deeper into how these variables expressed
meaningfully in marine citizenship and
marine citizens. I observed marine citizenship
in action using ethnographic methods.
My methodological approach generated a
volume of rich data for analysis. I learnt from
my key informant interviews what kinds of
questions to ask in my survey. I learnt from
my survey data analysis what further
investigation was needed within subsequent
interviews. I analysed qualitative and
quantitative data together to contextualise
numerical ndings, and direct further
avenues of investigation. This iterative
process meant that the dierent disciplinary
approaches and accompanying data were
truly integrated.
In practical terms, I delivered an online survey
to three case studies. These were the marine
groups Coastwise North Devon and Newquay
Marine Group, and the national citizen
science project Capturing Our Coast. The
project gave a national UK spread of
respondents, including those who were not
coastal resident. The marine groups enabled
access to marine citizens working on a range
of activities, such as local planning, national
consultations and projects, lobbying, and local
projects. All cases enabled access to marine
citizens carrying out pro-marine
environmental activities day-to-day. I received
280 responses to the survey from across the
UK, coastal and inland. I interviewed ten
respondents from across the two marine
groups, who were purposely selected to
include a diversity of responses across key
variables such as demographics, values, place
attachment, and depth of marine citizenship
activity. Through these interviews I sought a
range of alternative pathways to marine
citizenship. As part of the interview process,
I observed each participant engaging in
marine citizenship, which included activities
like leading community action, public event
delivery, beach cleaning, and citizen science.
and plurality
The results from my PhD are organised into
three broad themes:
1. Citizenship – what marine citizenship
is, who marine citizens are, and the
policy and institutional framework
around marine citizenship.
2. People – the internal characteristics and
personality factors that motivate marine
citizenship and relate to deeper marine
citizenship activity. Specific
investigation of basic human values,
environmental identity, and emotions.
3. Place – the role of the ocean as a material
and tangible place through marine place
attachment, marine place dependency,
and wider place identity. Additionally,
the place identifications, or
characteristics of the ocean, which feature
in the human-ocean relationship.
Evidence for these three areas came from
both qualitative and quantitative data,
through online survey, interview and
observation of marine citizenship activities.
I created a novel numerical measure of the
depth of marine citizenship. This allowed
qualitative actions to be scored according to
the amount of time/cost/eort they
incorporated, so that more deeply involved
action scored more highly. This enabled me to
test the various variables under investigation
for their inuence on depth of marine
citizenship to nd out what inuences a really
deep and meaningful commitment to the
marine environment.
“ I do it because that is
what I’m passionate
about…if I don’t do
something I would feel
guilty about that for a
long, long time.”
Findings and
6.1 Citizenship (Chapter 4)
Marine citizens
In this population of marine citizens, higher
educated, women, and over-55s were
overrepresented, in keeping with typical
volunteering demographics. Older people
engaged in more marine citizenship actions.
Environmental careers were well represented,
suggesting employment sector choice could
be a form of citizenship.
Marine citizenship
Pro-marine environmental behaviours are
more frequently performed when the
behaviours are low in cost or low in time
demand to the individual, and when they are
more accessible, particularly alongside other
recreational pursuits or life responsibilities,
for example beach cleaning and citizen
science. Citizen science is valued as
generating legitimate knowledge and
improving decision-making. However, marine
citizenship is more than pro-environmental
behaviours – it was viewed by marine citizens
as an expression of a citizenship identity and
sense of responsibility towards society – a
part of life lived.
Marine citizens are active in general civic
participation. Marine citizens are champions
of the sea, engaging with the public, seeking
to change others’ behaviours and attitudes,
and encouraging them to engage in civic
participation. Knowledge acts as a barrier,
enabler and motivator to marine citizenship.
Local knowledge is valued and scientic
knowledge seen as legitimate, with both types
of knowledge improving policy when applied
in decision-making processes. Education is
viewed as a promoter of pro-marine
environmental behaviours, though most
marine citizens did not express education as
being a driver of their own marine citizenship;
rather they engaged in the pursuit of
stimulation. Learning is an act of marine
citizenship, but education is not a driver of it.
Barriers and enablers to marine
Marine citizens are motivated by internal
values and emotions, but logistics and
systems pose a barrier to their participation.
Marine groups enable participation through
oering social capital such as knowledge
exchange, moral and practical support, and
collective action. They amplify the voices of
marine citizens. Running a marine group is
typically voluntary but requires considerable
skills and time commitment. Marine groups
confer legitimacy on the actions of marine
The value of marine citizenship
Marine citizenship enables social exchanges
of knowledge, awareness, and shared
responsibility, promoting citizenship duty in
others, which in turn is benecial for the
marine environment through changes in how
society interacts with the sea. Stewardship
and ownership of the marine environment
promote caring. Collective action is an
eective means of creating change.
Marine citizenship as a right
The most active marine citizens participate in
marine environmental decision-making.
Participation is typically through
consultations, knowledge generation via
citizen science, campaigning, and in local
planning. Local scale participation was
perceived as most eective, typically through
outcomes being known by participants, and
through direct participation rather than that
mediated by others. Individuals are
considered to be relatively disempowered,
and environmental NGOs perceived as having
most power. Individual empowerment was
unrelated to scale of place identity or whether
citizenship is a
form of civic
or not a person had
participated in marine
decision-making, but
increased when personal
participation was viewed as
a positive experience, even if
the outcome was not as
hoped. There is very little
awareness of the legislation
(the Aarhus Convention)
which confers environmental
participation rights. Legal
environmental redress is
rarely experienced, but is
sought through
campaigning, elected
representatives, government
and regulatory bodies,
courts, and planning
procedures. NGOs and
marine groups are a source
of information. Legal redress
is viewed as nancially
inaccessible for many, but
NGOs could act in this role
if not nancially limited.
Implications of
Citizenship findings
Through these ndings, I
advance the argument that
marine citizenship is more
than a simplistic set of pro-
environmental behaviours
that can be driven by
education or awareness
raising. Rather, marine
citizenship is a form of
civic participation and as
such is a social and
political act. Marine citizens
were active throughout
society, and engaged in a
wide range of transformative
acts, including knowledge
exchange and public
engagement. Though marine
citizens highly valued
knowledge and viewed
learning as a citizenship act,
the evidence in my research
was that knowledge
acquisition came secondary
in marine citizenship, after
forming a connection with
the ocean.
I argue that marine
citizenship isn’t only fullling
a set of responsibilities but
claiming an important set of
rights. Most signicant is the
right to participate in
transforming the human
relationship with the sea.
The demographics of marine
citizens in this study
suggests marginalised
communities may currently
be excluded from marine
citizenship. Conversely,
actively promoted in the
right way through
reconnection with marine
nature, marine citizenship
may be a means of re-
engaging such communities
in wider civic life.
Marine decision-making
can be improved by
widening access to public
engagement and
diversifying the types of
knowledge considered;
having an open,
transparent, and deeper
procedure with feedback
to participants on the
outcomes of the process;
and incorporating
subsidiarity, with
decisions made at the
most local scale. One
welcome area of
development in
environmental education/
ocean literacy would be
helping people to learn
about environmental
participation rights
conferred in the Aarhus
Convention and this should
certainly be adopted in
environmental professional
education programmes.
6.2 People (Chapter 5)
Schwartz’ Basic Human Values
Schwartz theory indicates that all our values
can be essentially reduced to ten basic values.
These are relational to one another in a circle
(like a clock face) containing two poles:
conservation to openness-to-change; and
self-enhancement to self-transcendence.
Moving clockwise around the value ‘clock
face’: conservation includes the values
security, conformity and tradition; self-
transcendence includes benevolence and
universalism; openness-to-change includes
self-direction, stimulation and hedonism; and
self-enhancement includes hedonism (which
straddles two poles), achievement and power.
A standard and well-tested questionnaire is
used to score each of the values for how
much they are prioritised compared to the
others. (Full explanation of both the theory
and how I used it in my PhD can be found in
Chapters 2 and 3 of my thesis.)
Typically, research shows that self-
transcendent values are prioritised in people
who care about the environment. I found the
same with universalism and benevolence
values strongly held by marine citizens. They
were predictive of marine citizenship
intention, but not of depth of marine
citizenship. High stimulation and low power/
conformity were most statistically important
for marine citizenship depth – i.e. marine
citizens who nd marine citizenship
interesting and are not concerned with tting
in with others do more. There was also an
indication that marine citizens viewed security
more neutrally than is typical in the general
public, in that all people would benet from
environmental security.
Additionally, the qualitative ndings revealed
relationships between marine citizenship and
all ten values. This important nding means
that marine citizenship can satisfy the diverse
range of human values and, by likewise
diversifying approaches to public engagement
with marine environmental issues, a wider
range of people might be motivated to be
active in marine citizenship. This supports
other research into social marketing, where
messages are tailored to the dierent values
if dierent groups of people.
Environmental identity and attitudes
I investigated the inuence of Clayton’s
psychological theory of Environmental
Identity. This can be measured through a
questionnaire that scores how much people
identify as being part of the environment, and
the environmental as part of them. I also
looked at some general environmental
attitudes. Marine citizens were concerned
about climate change and human impacts,
they weren’t materialistic, and they had a
strong Environmental Identity. Environmental
citizenship and spending time in nature are
the two themes within the environmental
Identity questionnaire which most commonly
appeared in the qualitative data.
Environmental Identity and all three
environmental attitudes that I investigated
were positively associated with marine
citizenship intention, but only Environmental
Identity and climate change concern were
positively associated with depth of marine
citizenship. This showed that both scientic
factual and moral elements inuenced
participation in marine citizenship.
Role of emotions in marine citizenship
Predominantly positive emotions, such as
love and enjoyment, motivated marine
citizenship. However negative emotions, such
as guilt, were assuaged by more participation
in marine citizenship activities. Emotionality
was connected with the sea as a place of
wellbeing and health.
“Real passionate means I'm
going to devote my life to it.”
Social experience
within marine
Social motivations for
marine citizenship
connected with holding
benevolence values and
valuing wellbeing/health.
There was a distinction
between the human aspect
of marine citizenship and
environmental outcomes.
Social experiences in the
public realm may increase
the social capital of marine
citizenship through
knowledge exchange and
wider public engagement.
Implications of People
One of the particularly novel
aspects of my research was
the inclusion of the full set of
basic human values in my
testing and the qualitative
analysis I did of the data.
Whilst having universalist or
benevolent values might be
a gateway to environmental
action for many (perhaps
most) people who engage, it
is not the only way. My
research demonstrated that
it was having low conformity
and high stimulation values
that promoted deeper
engagement. Being
interested in ocean
matters and being
prepared to step outside
of the comfort zone makes
for more engaged marine
citizens. However, I also
found that all the basic
human values can be
connected with via marine
citizenship. These ndings
will be useful for
policymakers or marketing
initiatives looking to tailor
messages or projects to a
more diverse group of people.
Being concerned about
wider climate change
impacts was a motivation
that showed a signicant
association with deeper
marine citizenship,
indicating an understanding
in marine citizens of the
connections between the
ocean and climate.
Holding an environmental
identity was unsurprisingly
inuential, but it was more
inuential on intention to be
a citizen than it was the
resulting depth of
citizenship. The key nding
of importance here was the
dominance of the
environmental identity
components relating to
identifying as an
environmental citizen and
valuing time spent in nature.
Environmental identity is a
bridge between the
engaged citizen and an
emotional attachment to
nature. Indeed, emotional
anity to the ocean in
marine citizens was striking.
can become
a marine
6.3 Place
(Chapter 6)
Geography of the
marine citizen
Most of the marine citizens
that I spoke to as part of my
research lived near the sea.
The majority chose to do so,
to satisfy wellbeing and
recreational needs, and very
few had always resided
there. Living close to the sea
was not a statistically
signicant driver of depth of
marine citizenship, but
marine citizens nonetheless
held strong and diverse
views about what inuence
proximity to the sea has for
marine citizenship. Tentative
indications of a positive
relationship between
frequency of sea visits and
depth of marine citizenship
indicate a possible indirect
connection between
proximity and marine
citizenship, where visits are
aected by convenience.
Place dependency
Marine citizens hold multiple
strong dependencies on the
ocean, particularly in relation
to wellbeing and recreation.
Recreation, wellbeing and
livelihood marine place
dependencies all showed
positive associations with
both intention and depth of
marine citizenship. Such
dependencies may underlie
the choice to live near the
sea. Where marine
livelihood was connected to
the knowledge and service
industry, this was the
strongest individual
motivating factor of all
statistical tests performed
in this research, and the
combination of all three
dependencies statistical
explained 17.1% of the
variation in marine
citizenship depth.
Marine place
Application of a standard
psychological metric
commonly used in place
attachment research and
adapted for the ocean as a
place, indicated that marine
citizens possess a strong
marine place attachment
that transcends localities,
which I call thalassophilia.
Based on this nding,
I proposed an adjusted
metric to identify marine
place attachment which
removed the location-
specic items, such as family
living nearby. I found marine
citizenship to be a way to
build place-based
relationships with the sea,
and marine citizenship was
also demonstrated to come
as a consequence of such
Place identity
Marine citizens hold multi-
scalar place identities, which
are particularly strong at
local and global scales. Place
identity was most
pronounced for
environmental place identity,
as opposed to social place
identity – marine citizens
identify more with the
environment than with the
people of a particular scale
of place. For example,
marine citizens typically felt
more strongly that they
belonged with their local
environment than that they
belonged with their neighbours
and local community. Where
global scale identity was
larger than local, it had a
small positive inuence on
marine citizenship.
The ocean as a place
Emergent ndings indicated
that the ocean is a discrete
environment capable of
creating attachment and
dependency, through
personal experience of the
sea. Most prominent were
understandings of the
quality of the sea, the lack of
conning boundaries and
the freedom represented by
the ocean, and the sensory
experience of the ocean.
Such experiences intersect
with values held and might
be assumed to be the initial
gateway to a web of place
relationships with the ocean
that ultimately promote
marine citizenship.
Implications of Place
My collective ndings made
a very compelling argument
about the power of the
ocean, as a specic kind of
environment and place, to
attach humans, inltrate
their sense of identity, and
create dependency. In some
ways this chapter was the
most simple – marine
citizens love and need the
ocean. But the ndings are
the most novel and highly
signicant for how we
understand both marine and
potentially wider
environmental citizenship.
Place attachment proven in
other comparable research
is typically attachment to a
specic locality, known and
familiar to a person, but
here marine citizens felt
very strong attachment to
the ocean as a type of
place, feeling the pull in
any coastal locality. With
marine place dependency
being by far the most
signicant variable
inuencing depth of
marine citizenship, it’s
clear the role of such
human-ocean relationships
needs much further
investigation and application
in interventions aimed at
promoting marine citizenship.
These human-ocean
relationships appear to
derive from the particular
qualities that humans
identify as dening the sea –
such as dynamism, lack of
boundaries, adventure and
challenge – and the unique
capacity the ocean has for
sensory experience. What
was clear from my research
was that the marine
citizenship journey begins
with experience and this is
most powerful when it
stems from direct contact
with the ocean. Education
and knowledge can inform
citizenship choices, policy
and procedure can facilitate
or exclude, but the pull of
the tide is the rst step.
The marine
begins with
identity What is marine
The use of inductive techniques meant that a
range of interesting ndings emerged from
my research. Perhaps the most unexpected
was the indication that marine citizens hold
a marine identity. In the Synthesis (Chapter
7) of my thesis I bring together the ndings
and tentatively propose a model of marine
identity which draws together the
components found to be signicant in People
(Chapter 5) and Place (Chapter 6) in particular.
To understand marine identity, I used
Breakwell’s model of social identity theory,
and its later adaptation by Twigger-Ross and
Uzzell to explain place identity and how place
supports people’s sense of self. I dened this
marine identity as “an identity rooted in
the way in which the ocean as a place
supports the sense of self.” I found that
low conformity value, high marine place
attachment and marine place dependency
in particular were able to drive a marine
identity. Where marine identity was
dependent upon a healthy ocean, it was clear
how marine citizenship could be utilised as a
mechanism for preserving the marine ‘place’
(which is needed for a strong self-identity)
and used to reduce the threat to identity that
marine degradation poses.
The tentative next steps for research into
marine identity are to explore this model
empirically, both in its existence and types
of presentation, and its direct role in marine
citizenship participation. Can policy measures
promote marine identity development which is
dependent upon a healthy ocean? Would this
create a population of active marine citizens?
Finally, in the Synthesis (Chapter 7) I take the
evidence from my research to argue the case
for a widening of our understanding of marine
citizenship. Having investigated marine
citizens’ own experience of marine citizenship,
I argue that we should be looking at marine
citizenship through the wider lens of political
citizenship, rather than limiting research to a
narrower environmental education lens.
Marine citizens have the capacity to be
inuential in marine decision-making and
policy, and to be aspirational and ideological
actors in the human-ocean social space.
Marine policy can have a role in inuencing
accessibility for marine citizens in these
political actions, through civic education,
championing better public participation
procedures, and investigating how eectively
the existing environmental procedural rights
are being implemented in practice. The role of
marine groups as facilitators in knowledge
exchange, developing marine citizenship
social capital, and inuencing the wider
public is signicant and warrants additional
resources and support.
Finally, I propose a new, more comprehensive
denition of marine citizenship:
“Marine citizenship is exercising the right
to participate in the transformation of
society’s relationship with the ocean, and
acceptance of responsibility to make
informed decisions and choices about
personal and collective actions, that will
contribute to a sustainable marine
environment, now and into the future.”
This might be operationalised as "Marine
citizenship is being an active part of
shaping the human - ocean relationship
for sustainability."
“Only by direct experience and contact can one get
any true impression of the importance and
majesty of the marine environment.”
About the
PhD project
This research was funded by the Economic
and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Environment, Energy and Resilience funding
stream. It was conducted through the South
West Doctoral Training Partnership, at the
University of Exeter, between 2016 and 2021.
The supervisory committee were Dr Louisa
Evans (University of Exeter), Dr Margherita
Pieraccini (University of Bristol), and Prof
Stewart Barr (University of Exeter).
Through the ndings of my PhD, summarised
in this report, I’ve been able to widen the
debate about marine citizenship. First, I have
challenged existing education-based views of
marine citizenship to demonstrate the
political dimensions to marine citizenship. In
so doing, I have explored the nature of public
participation in marine decision-making in
relation to existing international
environmental participation legislation.
Second, I have added insight into a range of
psychological factors that are commonly
thought to be inuential on environmental
citizenship, applying them directly to the
marine context and considering their
relational importance. Third, I’ve considered
the unique and specic importance of the sea
as a motivating factor, the evidence for which
must provoke greater research eort in
future. And nally I’ve tentatively proposed a
marine identity based on an existing social
identity theory, which may have an important
role in understanding the relationship
between ocean-connectedness and taken
action as a marine citizenship.
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