Our Future Wealth — Stored in The Sea: the Storyscaper and the Kelp Farm
A speculative tale of restorative aquaculture
12th September, 2034
I set down my empty coffee cup on the kitchen table and leave the house quietly. The air is cool, and I wrap my scarf around me as I cross the front garden. I open the gate that leads straight on to the beach and step down on to the marram grass, and down again to the sand. Hard, wet, compacted. It seems untouched, though when I look closer I see tracks left by shorebirds — scurrying all over the sand. Oystercatcher, or redshank perhaps. Not a curlew. It’s been nearly a decade since we’ve seen them.
The beach is deserted at this time of day. Early mornings are my favourite, just before dawn. High tide was over an hour ago, and now it’s on its way out. The terns and the gulls follow, reclaiming small territories of sandbank as they reappear from the sea.
I breathe in the salty air. I take in the skies. I note the absence of shells again this morning. Then I start walking. I’m on my way to meet Ashley — a local kelp farmer.
Years ago, when I lived on the opposite side of the Forth, this coastline was dominated by tanker berths. Huge ocean-going supertankers would come in to offload their liquid black gold. When the carbon coins entered circulation, those corporations switched tactics, realising they’d make more money leaving oil in the ground.
Ashley had been one of the early adopters, or ‘crazy ones’, who placed bids for the tanker infrastructure. Rather than let the rigs and pipes be dismantled and shipped overseas for waste disposal, to be dumped on some pristine Indian beach, she wanted them. Her business plan, which the local council deliberated over, but eventually — after inquiry — approved, was to establish a kelp farm.
From the early days of kelp aquaculture, it was known how efficiently these farms could remediate sick seas. Revitalising oceans, absorbing excess nutrients, healing the water throughout the column, from the darkest depths to the shimmering surface.
Drawing down carbon, releasing oxygen. Taking up pollutants, transforming them into nourishment. Animal feed, human food, fertiliser, fuels. Cosmetics…