CFP RGS 2018: Re-engaging the Global Commons

Re-engaging the Global Commons
Call for Papers: RGS-IBG Annual Conference, Cardiff, 28th August – 31st August 2018

Conveners: Craig Jones, Alexandra Gormally and Rosanna Carver, Lancaster University

The Global Commons – the high seas, atmosphere, Antarctica, and outer space – have historically been construed as areas outside the control of any one nation state and, consequently, have usually been framed as the common heritage of humankind (Buck, 1998). This framing has frequently been used to refute property rights within these resource domains, thereby limiting the commercial exploitation of these environments. However, the development of various technologies has led to these resource domains becoming increasingly accessible (UNEP, 2017) and there are numerous attempts to begin exploiting these ‘resource frontiers’, such as deep sea mining, the assertion of fishing rights in Antarctic waters, and proposals of asteroid mining and extraterrestrial settlement. The various activities proposed (or, indeed, occurring) for the Global Commons challenges the traditional notions of what they are and the manner(s) in which they operate, these operations falling within the sole remit of private actors with sufficient capital to engage with these areas, thus disrupting the idea that the Commons are the common heritage of humankind.

              With these issues in mind, one may wish to question whether the traditional definition(s) of the Commons continues to be sufficient. To whom do these Commons now belong? Who is excluded/included? What are the various geometries of power at play? What actors are involved and how are they positioned? How do interested parties frame these areas? How are these contested and by whom? How and where do these debates fit within current political and geographical debates? This session seeks to explore these questions and more through a re-engagement with the Global Commons and what this means within the contemporary socio-political-economic climate.

              Please send your abstracts of no more than 250 words to the conveners by no later than Thursday February 8thWe are also happy to answer any queries you have via email: c.jones21[at], a.gormally[at], r.carver[at]

Book release: Large-scale Mines and Local-level Politics

Large-scale Mines and Local-level Politics:
Between New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea

Despite the difference in their populations and political status, New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea have comparable levels of economic dependence on the extraction and export of mineral resources. For this reason, the costs and benefits of large-scale mining projects for indigenous communities has been a major political issue in both jurisdictions, and one that has come to be negotiated through multiple channels at different levels of political organisation. The ‘resource boom’ that took place in the early years of the current century has only served to intensify the political contests and conflicts that surround the distribution of social, economic and environmental costs and benefits between community members and other ‘stakeholders’ in the large-scale mining industry. However, the mutual isolation of Anglophone and Francophone scholars has formed a barrier to systematic comparison of the relationship between large-scale mines and local-level politics in Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia, despite their geographical proximity. This collection of essays represents an effort to overcome this barrier, but is also intended as a major contribution to the growth of academic and political debate about the social impact of the large-scale mining industry in Melanesia and beyond.

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Nature is priceless, which is why turning it into ‘natural capital’ is wrong


By and

For: The Conversation

An increasingly popular line of argument is that, by turning nature into capital, it is possible to reconcile a capitalist growth economy with conservation. In this way, proponents assert, conservation can be expressed in a language that economists, policy-makers and CEOs understand.

But this strategy is not just self-defeating. It is a dangerous illusion that masks the way capitalist growth undermines conservation itself.

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The fallacy of ecosystem services


By: Bente Meindertsma for Vice Versa

In our capitalist society, nature is increasingly defined as a service to mankind. Governments, companies and NGO’s assign value to certain features of nature in order to preserve it. ‘This is a convenient way to see nature, because it matches the way our economy is set up’, explains Vijay Kolinjivadi, researcher at McGill University. However, imposing this framework on local communities is a form of green colonization Read more

Silent protest: women in Indonesia’s oil palm industry

By: Rosalie Koevoets for Vice Versa

The oil palm industry brings to mind the image of men using large mechanical tools and carrying heavy loads of fruit. However, across Indonesia’s palm oil producing regions, women are frequently seen working on plantations alongside men. In fact, women form the backbone to the country’s most important industry. Yet, the voices of women in the struggle against oil palm companies are often marginalized. Read more

Why resource extraction and nature conservation lead to increasing conflict and violence

Author: Bente Meindertsma for Vice Versa

We seem to have entered a new phase in the relation between violence and environment. Increasing violence against wildlife and communities living in protected areas and conflicts over access to natural resources have led scientists in the field of political ecology to discuss the causes and impacts of these dynamics at the PE-3C conference in Wageningen.

2015 was the deadliest year ever for environmental activists, according to a recent report by human rights NGO Global Witness. 185 people were killed, an increase of 59% compared to the previous year. The report shows how deeply environmental issues are intertwined with political struggle, conflict and the uneven distribution of power. The scientific field of political ecology focusses on just that, by studying how different interests, forms of power and politics influence and frame our relationship to environmental issues and access to natural resources. At the recent Political Ecology conference in Wageningen (PE-3C), more than 350 scientists and activists came together to discuss the political ecologies of conflict, capitalism and contestation. Read more