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Managing global commons crucial the fight against climate change

Education is central to improving the management of global commons.





Climate change is widely recognized as a major environmental problem facing our planet. Even Pope Francis has been drawn into the issue and it’s been reported that he will be issuing an encyclical on climate change in March of this year, will give an address to the UN general assembly, and call a summit of the world’s main religions.

The global atmosphere can be conceptualised as a commons, with no ownership but one which we all have rights to use. As such, governance is difficult, particularly in the absence of global agreements and formal institutions to manage the resource.

Global commons are particularly difficult to manage in the long term due to difficulties of getting national and international bodies to work together. It can be done, as the Montreal Protocol to protect the Ozone layer demonstrated, but it takes time and commitment.

Commons exist not just at the global level but at many scales and can be found in many areas of life. By commons we mean resources that are shared in some way by different individuals, communities, or groups, and can be present at local, regional or global scales. Commons can include shared grazing pasture, forests and their produce, marine resources such as fisheries, and at a larger scale biodiversity, and the global atmosphere.

Education is central to improving the management of global commons, and a current issue is how we can use the lessons from long-enduring institutions that have successfully (and sustainably) managed commons such as irrigation systems, grazing lands and forests for hundreds of years. With this in mind the International Association for the Study of Commons (IASC) has sponsored a distance learning programme – the first of its kind – aimed at raising awareness and improving the management of common resources.

The courses will be delivered by the Countryside and Community Research Institute at the University of Gloucestershire and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), in both English and Spanish to help reach a global audience.

The first course, ‘Managing our Common Resources’, starts in March and has been developed to raise awareness around the world about the governance and management of commons. Dr John Powell, an expert in common resources management and the course tutor at the University of Gloucestershire said,

“Managing global commons is an enormous challenge that will require new management approaches capable of dealing with both private economic ambitions and national interests. Even with the support of the Pope, we will need a widespread change in the understanding of the nature of commons resources and must engage in new ways of thinking about how we utilise the earth’s resources and conceptualise economic growth.”

This new six-week short course, which costs only £80, provides a unique opportunity for people involved in the governance or management of commons resources to take a step in the right direction, including practitioners involved in commons management, policymakers with responsibilities for management or oversight of use and access to commons resources, community and non-government groups involved in creating or developing institutional arrangements for managing shared resources, and academics with an interest in improving their understanding of commons resource management and governance.

More information regarding the courses can be found at


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