Defining Nature as a Common Pool Resource
Environmental Law and Contrasting Ideas of Nature: A Constructivist Approach (ed. Keith H. Hirokawa) (2014)
17 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2012 Last revised: 16 Feb 2016
Date Written: November 7, 2012
One of the many ways in which we attempt to study resource use and conservation is to define natural resources as “common pool resources.” Yet in a broad sense we can understand nature more generally as a common pool resource with which we maintain a special relationship. This definition incorporates several legal, behavioral, and ecological concepts that seek to capture the intricate and complex place where nature and the governance of nature collide. Once we apply the common pool resource definition to nature, we commit to viewing nature through five distinct and specific lenses that are embedded in the common pool resource framework. This chapter explores these commitments in an effort to establish a foundation for related research on how these common pool resource-specific lenses may influence the management of nature. The chapter begins with a short background on common pool resources and the understanding of them in the legal literature. The chapter then turns to five conceptual commitments we make by labeling nature as a common pool resource. An exploration of the commitments reveals that they have both intended and unintended consequences on the way we view nature. Those consequences, in turn, have both positive and negative implications for the management of nature. Further, regardless of whether the commitments help facilitate positive or negative approaches to nature management, each commitment places limiting and potentially harmful constraints on the broader perspective with which we should view nature. The chapter concludes by raising the question of whether this limited perspective fully considers pertinent characteristics inherent in nature and whether we should think more broadly when defining nature.
Keywords: nature, natural capital, environmental, commons, common pool resource, property, property rights
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