Ocean Wants

Design: Lana Jerichová

Humanity is so destructive to its environment that if we care about it, we sense a prevailing urge to preserve and restore it. In doing so, we foster the notion of nature as an overall balanced and content entity. We perpetuate the belief in a paradisal primal state—that is, until humanity messed things up.

However, as humanity has already drastically changed nature, nonhumans might resent being pushed into reservations. Many wild species adapted to the city and prefer its conveniences to a pseudo wilderness. What else could please them, if given the choice?

Ocean Wants is a series of ten podcasts commissioned by TBA21–Academy that playfully explores how nonhumans could like our planet to be. In each episode, writer Ingo Niermann meets with an expert from a different field to ask: What would a given species come up with if it could be as dominant as humans have been? What if fish, whales, octopuses, jellyfish, corals, algae, or extremophiles claimed to rule the world? What is their ideal environment and which role could human myths, habits, and technologies play in satisfying their needs? 

Ocean Wants confronts humanity with creatures that speculatively mirror its hubris. All are inhabitants of the sea—the vast and most neglected and alien part of our environment. It is here where humanity is meant to overcome its superiority complex.

Conceived, hosted, and edited by Ingo Niermann
Music composed and arranged by Ville Haimala
Intro read by Joan Jonas
Credits read by Staci Bu Shea
Sound edited by Robin Michel
Produced by Ingo Niermann and María Montero Sierra
Episode 1: Coral Renaissance, feat. Marah J. Hardt

We celebrate coral reefs as the colorful rain forests of the ocean. How could we not just save and restore existing coral reefs but allow them to spread? Ingo Niermann in conversation with Marah J. Hardt, marine biologist, storyteller and director of discovery at the non-profit Future of Fish. She speaks from her home in Hawaii.

Episode 2: Self-Conscious Fish, feat. Alex Jordan

Fish are compassionate, recognize themselves in the mirror, and fancy designed shelters over natural ones. Recent experiments contest common ideas of what distinguishes humans from smaller, non-mammalian creatures of the sea. Ingo Niermann in conversation with Alex Jordan, Principal Investigator at the Department of Collective Behaviour at the Max Planck Institute in Konstanz, Germany. We speak at this home near Lake Constance.

Episode 3: Rise of Slime, feat. Lisa-Ann Gershwin

Five hundred million years ago the ocean was dominated by jellyfish. Thanks to us, humans, they might dominate the ocean again. Ingo Niermann in conversation with Lisa-ann Gershwin, a marine biologist with a unique dedication and enthusiasm for jellyfish. She speaks from her home in Tasmania.

Episode 4: Cephalopods on Land, feat. Danna Staa

Before fish and other vertebrates proliferated, it was the heyday of the cephalopods. Their descendants – squid, cuttlefish, octopus, and nautilus – are still around us, coping better with human dominance than many fish. In this episode, host Ingo Niermann talks to Danna Staaf, a trained marine biologist, who writes about the history of the cephalopods. She speaks from her home in San Jose, California.

Episode 5: Translating Whales, feat. David Gruber

To know what other humans want, we can ask them. But pets aside, modern societies have lost the confidence and interest to communicate with non-humans. Could advanced machine learning allow for a proper interspecies conversation, even with creatures who spend most of their time away in the deep? In Ocean Wants #6: Translating Whales, speculative writer Ingo Nierman talks to David Gruber, marine biologist, and leader of CETI, a multidisciplinary project on understanding the acoustic communication of sperm whales, speaking from his home in New York City.

Episode 6: Conservation Libido, feat. Eva Hayward

The ocean refuses empathetic ethics based on sameness with us humans. What does the urge to save nature — in certain ways — reveal about us and our desire?
In the fifth episode of Ocean Wants, our host, speculative writer Ingo Niermann talks to Eva Hayward, historian of science and faculty member of the Department of Gender and Women Studies at the University of Arizona.

Episode 7: Canceled Ice Age, feat. William Ruddiman

For the last seven thousand years, humans have stabilized the global climate. The greenhouse gases emitted through deforestation, agriculture, and husbandry prevented the onset of a new glaciation. Only since the industrial revolution, human influences have gotten out of hand, causing rapid rises in temperature and sea level.
Our host, speculative writer Ingo Niermann, is in conversation with William Ruddiman, geologist, and originator of the early Anthropocene hypothesis. He speaks from his home in Virginia.

Episode 8: Pain-Free Sea, feat. David Pearce

Shouldn’t the reduction of suffering be our top priority when taking care of others’ needs – in particularly of those we can’t ask? Soon, CRISPR edited gene drives could alter the pain perception and hedonic range of any sexually reproducing species.
In episode 8. Ingo Niermann hears from David Pearce, a transhumanist philosopher who advocates the abolition of all negative feelings. David speaks from his home in Brighton, UK.

Episode 9: Deep Frontier, feat. Diva Amon

We can see stars thousands of lightyears away with our naked eye. We only began to know more about life in the deep sea around two hundred years ago – and we still know very little. How do we have to reinvent ourselves to serve the needs of the deep sea and tame endeavors to exploit its habitats? This time, our host Ingo Niermann speaks with Diva Amon, a marine biologist focused on the habitats and animals of the deep ocean. She is also a founder and director of SpeSeas, an NGO dedicated to marine science, education, and advocacy in Trinidad and Tobago. Diva speaks from her family home in Trinidad.

Episode 10: Ocean Nation, feat. Markus Reymann

While the land is ruled by nations and super nations, the ocean is subject to the tragedy of the commons. What if the ocean would turn into a nation of its own – the largest nation in the world? In the tenth and final episode of the podcast Ocean Wants, our host, speculative writer Ingo NIermann talks to Markus Reymann, director of TBA21–Academy and its venue Ocean Space in Venice.