Marianas Critical Research Initiative

Marianas Islands

Year: 2023-2024
Research Team Type: Faculty-led
Organizer: Clancy Wilmott, Assistant Professor in Critical Cartography, Geovisualisation, and Design in the Berkeley Centre for New Media and the Department of Geography

Over the past two decades, US military plans for the Marianas archipelago (mandatorily released to the public in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act) have detailed enormous infrastructure expansions that risk contaminating the islands’ soil, drinking water, and fragile coral reef ecosystems. Critics of these plans also point out that proposed training ranges promise to physically destroy sacred cultural sites, damage the archipelago’s tourism-based economy, and increase travel and shipping costs by restricting air and sea space during training exercises. Local non-profit organizations, lawyers, environmental scientists, politicians, artists, and activists have responded to these perceived threats to their health, environment, culture, and way of life with a barrage of protests, lawsuits, and appeals to the US federal government and United Nations.

The Marianas Critical Research Initiative (MCRI) is a diverse coalition of UC Berkeley faculty and graduate students interested in examining the detrimental effects that US military presence has had on environmental and human health in the Marianas from WWII to the present. With heritage and familial ties across the Pacific, the MCRI team is dedicated to achieving and bolstering understanding of this under-studied conflict, taking an interdisciplinary approach to the topic by integrating critical military studies, security studies, political ecology, geography, indigenous studies, public health, veteran studies, and questions of sovereignty and colonialism in US territories.