Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2021

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Environmental Studies


John Van Buren


This paper explores the potential that regenerative kelp farming along the U.S. coasts can have to remediate environmental degradation caused by our industrialized food system. In chapter 1, using quantitative data from various peer-reviewed journal articles, I explain the ways in which the widespread use of petrochemicals in fuel and fertilizers have contributed to environmental degradation in the form of nitrogen pollution on land and in water, soil erosion, and ocean acidification. Chapter 2 examines the political figures and events that led to our decades-long dependence on petrochemical farming. Then, I discuss seaweed fertilizers as a sustainable alternative for the future and potential political hurdles to making this happen. Chapter 3 delves into the significance of seaweed's impact on the health of marine ecosystems. Then, I consider the extent to which the ecosystem services provided by such underwater forests and other natural seaweed formations can be replicated through the creation of a network of small to medium scale regenerative seaweed farms. Chapter 4 details the many health benefits that can come from increased seaweed farming and consumption in terms of human nutrition, reduced pollution, and economic opportunities. Finally, in chapter 5 I depict the current reality of kelp farming in the U.S. based on interviews with sustainable kelp farmers and marine biologists. I share their forecasts for the industry and their policy recommendations for bolstering further development of it. Building on these, I also make recommendations of my own on how we can make sure this sustainable-seaweed-farming revolution happens as soon as possible. Keywords: seaweed farming, regenerative aquaculture, food system, environmental politics, environmental history, public health, United States.

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