Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

Regina Karp

Committee Member

John A. Sokolowski

Committee Member

Peter Schulman


Myriad challenges regarding earth's common spaces, those unregulated by sovereign state authorities, mount and intensify as resources diminish and competition for commercial, scientific and security advantages increases; the pollution and degradation of those spaces simultaneously expands. Threats to the global commons complicate efforts to achieve international consensus which impedes attempts to develop effective governance. As an example, marine debris is a growing problem and is an existential threat to the global commons.

This dissertation aims to characterize marine debris as a wicked problem and explores the complexity of governance in the global ocean commons by answering two fundamental questions. Under what condition(s) does regulating debris in the marine commons pose unique governance challenges? Is the wicked problem of marine debris unsolvable?

An interdisciplinary, mixed methodology approach is used, to include the development of a novel System Dynamics model, to explore the reinforcing cycles of exponential growth of marine debris. The design and analysis demonstrate multiple variables as components of a larger system and explore their dynamic interaction.


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