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The Commons Law Project offers a vital resource for building commons

on Wed, 07/04/2012 - 14:13

Green Governance:  Ecological Survival, Human Rights, and Law of the Commons 

A forthcoming pivotal book by Burns Weston (left) and David Bollier (right)

(Cambridge University Press, 2013). This book provides a full argument for the vision of a new architecture of law and public policy that can effectively address climate change and other urgent ecological problems while advancing human rights and social empowerment.  

Given the manifest failures of the existing State/Market duopoly to achieve these goals, the authors consider as imperative that we move beyond reforms of the existing system to instigate new types of governance structures.  They see “commons law” (not to be confused with common law) as a way to integrate a broader notion of economics, human rights, and commons-based governance into a compelling new paradigm of environmental protection.  

Achieving a clean, healthy and ecologically balanced environment requires that we cultivate a practical governance paradigm based on, first, a logic of respect for nature, sufficiency, interdependence, shared responsibility and fairness among all human beings; and second, an ethic of integrated global and local citizenship that insists upon transparency and accountability in all activities affecting the integrity of the environment.

They believe that commons- and rights-based ecological governance can fulfill this logic and ethic.  Properly done, it can move us beyond the neoliberal State and Market alliance―what we call the “State/Market”―which is chiefly responsible for the current, failed paradigm of ecological governance.

In part 1 of their their essay  “Regenerating the Human Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment in the Commons Renaissance” they examine our understanding of "value" in economic thought and look into re-structuring economic activitiy by honoring social diversty and the power of non-market particiaption. They re-interpret human rights by expanding it to the human right to a clean and healthy environment. By bringing together new trends in economics, digital technology and human rights, they discover a new synthesis that can help to address our many ecological crises. A reconceptualization of human rights will become a key element of socio-ecological governance and justice.

In part 2 they discuss the Commons as a model for ecological governance presenting it as as governance system that can help humankind serve as responsible stewards of natural resoruces. They urge us to develop new legal principles and strategies that can support rights-based ecological commons in their many varieties.  Law must help protect the commons against enclosure, assure their responsible operation and unleash their generative stewardship.  This requires that we pursue certain legal strategies to foster the creation of commons and to push the State/Market to use its authority and resources to do the same.  

If we are truly going to regenerate the human right to a clean and healthy environment, we must gird ourselves for some ambitious tasks:    

  • imagining alternative futures; 
  • mobilizing new energies and commitments;
  • deconstructing archaic institutions while building new ones;
  • devising new public policies and legal mechanisms;
  • cultivating new understandings of human rights, economics and commons;
  • and reconsidering some deeply rooted prejudices about governance and human nature.   

More details about the essay and the forthcoming can be downloaded here.