Who Owns The Sky? Occupy the Global Atmosphere Commons!


Commons Institution for the Sky?  As we move thru the Occupy Spring, Earth Day comes to mind… Many climate activists will be asking if one of the largest commons on the planet, our global atmosphere, can serve as the fulcrum to turn this unsustainable and unjust ecological, economic and political situation in a better direction for the 99%?

Emissions permits are rights to use the atmosphere – a resource which gets a scarcity value equal to the carbon price. Current schemes like the Emissions Trading System (ETS) and Cap & Tax assume the carbon scarcity rent should go to polluters or governments – but doesn’t it belong to us all?

Since the earth’s atmosphere belongs to us all, a rapidly shrinking number of permits to sell fossil fuels could be issued… to the public per capita….and then the companies selling oil, gas and coal would be obliged to buy the permits from the common  people before they were allowed to sell fuels…. we the commoners would capture the carbon rent, and we would set the timelines and investment levels for transition away from fossil fuels.

Ostroms eight rules for commons management: Elinor Ostrom recently won the Nobel Prize for her studies of commons management practices around the world, and how they support sustainability and justice.

Here, her principles have been applied to the idea of global and subsidiary commons institutions (in each nation), run by the people’s trustees and supported by governments for enforcement of the carbon cap and distribution of the shares.

1.Clearly defined boundaries (in this case, targeted and precise measurements of up-stream carbon units that can be effectively monitored… this is generally assumed to be at the source of extraction)

2.Effective exclusion of external un-entitled parties [or illegitimate use] (“leaks” in the carbon measurements must be identified, and primary producers of fossil fuels brought into compliance)

3.Rules regarding the use of common resources are adapted to local conditions; (each national climate commons institution would decide how much to pay out as dividends to citizens, eg. for poverty alleviation or home energy system transformation, and how much to invest in transition projects and infrastructure)

4.Collective-choice arrangements allow most resource users to participate in the decision-making process; (a deliberative social charter process with engagement by many citizens will set rules and governance for subsidiary institutions in each nation, including collaboration on global atmosphere institution)

5. Effective monitoring by monitors who are part of or accountable to users; (some of the global revenues would go towards monitoring and enforcement of the global cap on emissions)

6.There is a scale of graduated sanctions for resource users who violate community rules; (funding would be cut to national level institutions that were not adhering to the by-laws of their charters, companies would be fined for emitting GHG’s w/o the needed pollution permits)

7.  Mechanisms of conflict resolution are cheap and of easy access; (devised as part of designed deliberative democratic  processes that can create social charters for local, national and global scales)

8. The self-determination of the community is recognized by higher-level authorities (Nation States and the UN must uphold the rules set by such a global atmosphere institution and the subsidiaries in each nation… the process can begin with a few progressive countries leading the way)

Resources for local, regional and global climate organizers…

1. Feasta, Irish Think Tank working on details of a Global Atmosphere Trust (these principles are adapted from the work of Feasta members).  Feasta put together this excellent policy overview…

CapandShare.org (pdf model for deliberation on global trust with national subsidiaries, http://www.feasta.org/documents/energy/Cap-and-Share-May08.pdf )

2. Who Owns the Sky? By Peter Barnes (modeled after USA’s, Alaska Permanent Fund… oil revenues go to the people), ISBN: 1-55963-854-0

3. OnTheCommons.org, resources, stories and projects on the commons movement around the world

4. GlobalCommonsTrust.org, info on creating social charters to inform commons institutions and trusts to protect local rights, resources and value

5. Commons Course, building awareness and connections for cooperation across the commons movement, sponsored by School of Commoning (SoC), http://www.schoolofcommoning.com/

MBS does research & outreach with Global Commons Trust, teaches on the Commons Course, and writes for the Future of Occupy, a site following Occupy & allied movements for peace, justice + sustainability for the 99%.  MaryBeth.Steisslinger@gmail.com

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3 Comments on “Who Owns The Sky? Occupy the Global Atmosphere Commons!”

  1. April 8, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    We MUST take Solar Energy Application much more seriously in the United States. I will be launching a website, SOLARDARITYCITY.com, hopefully this week. It is under construction and the first graphic ‘rough’ which includes a graphic design and print is on my profile page at Twitter. I have advocates in the Latino, Black and White communities committed to working together to PUSH SOLAR and ALL OTHER COMBINED SOURCES OF CLEAN ENERGY! The best way to combat pollution of the commons of the skies is to switch to all clean sources of energy — and not to let POLITICAL MANEUVERING/LOBBYING/BIG MONEY STAND IN THE WAY OF THIS. We are approaching an environmental crisis.

    • April 9, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

      Yes! Moving towards decentralized energy is the way to go.

      And also defusing the global carbon bomb thru making all members of the human family stakeholders of our collective atmosphere… that’s the serious profit incentive to get the 99% cooperating to see this transition thru.

      Feastsa and others have some great ideas for how this can start on the City level.
      Is your project a local NYC initiative, SOLARDARITYCITY.com?

  2. April 15, 2012 at 12:42 am #

    My project is NOT a local project for any state or any area. It is a NATIONAL EFFORT, inviting the entire Celebrity Community of the U.S., if they support this idea — to “Stand Up and Speak for It and to Help Create a Major Solar Demonstration Project in a Big U.S. City, Like Chicago. If you look at the Website, you will have no problem getting the “gist” of the idea. The idea first began in “my head” when I read that the Solynra Site was going on sale and the most likely purchaser would be corporate energy (i.e. it sounded like fossil fuel). This was very upsetting to me, and I began to conjure alternative ideas — who might purchase the Solyndra property. I thought to myself — well — HOLLYWOOD has the MONEY AND THE STATUS TO DO THAT!! i began to Tweet about this — @DebtTrut on Twitter. People began to respond. The idea morphed with input from others. I’m an artist/musician, so I basically ‘spin out ideas’ ALL THE TIME. This was perfectly normal for me, I can’t do calculus, but I can create in several areas. I’m “an IDEA PERSON.”

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