Commons And United Nations 2030 Agenda

Leaf blowers, small hobby aircraft, bicycle lanes, wood-burning fireplaces, mountain bikes, kites, jet skis, cars, trucks, dog walkers. All have one thing in common: They share spaces that are used by other people, not necessarily doing what they are doing.

Born many years ago in Europe, the term Commons was used to describe a resource that, out of necessity, was shared by a local group. In this early usage, the shared resource was grazing fields for cattle. Today, many other resources are being considered as Commons.

Since the Industrial Revolution, the natural resources of land and sea – Commons types of resources – have been monetized and, along with the air we breathe, used as waste dumping grounds. Our view of commonly shared natural resources has changed, from something that could be shared between neighbors, to something that is managed as a commodity. Industry’s ability to absorb natural resources and turn them into products, then use them as a waste receptacle, ultimately created a need to manage certain practices.

Commercial markets required rules to function, and the harvesting of raw material, manufacturing of products, and disposal of waste eventually required rules in order to avoid resource depletion and a die-off of consumers due to poison products and poisoned environments. Regulations affecting cigarette smoking, utility water pipes, sewage disposal, and seafood catches have impacted on some human behaviors.

Codified regulation on Commons resources are not always accepted or respected by everyone, especially when restrictions conflict with the needs and desires of individuals. In 2014, Cliven Bundy and other cattle ranchers in Nevada, stood their ground in not accepting the federal government’s role in managing large tracks of neighboring land.

This has been a many decades long conflict, bitterly fought in standoffs and in the courts. It involves complex legal issues but centers on the rights of individuals to use public land while recognizing only locally arrived at agreements and enforcement. It’s a mess of a case, but it illustrates the conflict between individual rights in using commonly held locally managed resources – Commons – and government control.

Sharing resources by agreement among users – the old tradition – can now seem unreasonable, economically unfeasible, and ultimately illegal – not to mention, misunderstood in its modern context. One example of misunderstanding Commons on a grander scale centers on the United Nations 2030 Agenda. The scale is the entire planet.

Here’s the plan’s opening statement:
“This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom. We recognize that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.”

The UN 2030 Agenda is as comprehensive as it is broad in its proposed application. It describes sustainable ways of addressing a range of economic and resource functions. The objective is to improve the quality of life for all 8 billion of us humans by sustainably managing many resources of the planet.

This program represents a large-scale use of the Commons idea in that it addresses commonly used resources in a way that can benefit all who use them; effectively, it’s a global Commons.

Since the Industrial Revolution, the systems we rely on for survival – food production, transportation, energy production, investment – have become interconnected and interdependent, meaning if one piece of the system of resource management becomes stressed, it will stress other parts. If some parts become stressed enough, a collapse involving the planet’s resources can occur, and all of us will suffer. The main stressors impacting sustainability are resource depletion and pollution.

The 2030 Agenda has generated some pushback. One negative view is that global government management is a slippery slope – toward greater control by governments and less control by individuals on how individuals can chose to live.

More extreme reactions are that the 2030 Agenda is an attempt to take away people’s freedoms, control everyone’s lives, and create a socialist/communist economic system that favors the poor at the expense of others: government control, reducing the individual to slaves of the state.

Reactions like these represent, at the very least, a fundamental misunderstanding of Commons resource use, and what sustainable resource management means. Commons is agreeing to share resources in way that benefits everyone – including the individual – and sustainability is managing resources in a way that assures we won’t run out of resources.

Assuring that resources will be around for another 10 years is not much assurance; another 70 years may not cover many people being born today; planning for beyond 70 years is what sustainable initiatives and the 2030 Agenda are attempting to address.

Also, the broad view of the 2030 Agenda – food and energy production – encompasses how the use of resources will affect our climate, today and in the future. The air we breathe is a Commons resource, and excessive greenhouse gasses in our air can make all other attempts at resource sustainability unproductive. Today, managing planet Earth’s resources sustainably also means managing our climate.

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