Land as a Global Commons?

Journal of Applied Philosophy (forthcoming)
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Land is becoming increasingly scarce relative to the demands of the global economy; a problem significantly exacerbated by climate change. In response, some have suggested that land should be conceptualised as a global commons. This framing might seem like an appealing way to promote sustainable and equitable land use. However, it is a poor fit for the worldʼs land because global commons are generally understood as resources located beyond state borders. I argue that land can be seen to fit the definition of a global commons, if viewed in a particular way; namely, as a biogeochemical resource system that sequesters carbon emissions. The question then arises whether land should be conceptualised as a global commons. I consider this question by reference to three contemporary problems of land justice (land grabbing, forced displacement, and unfairness in land-based climate mitigation); arguing that the global-commons framing will not be conducive to understanding or responding to these problems. I leave the question of how the global community should conceptualise land in the context of climate change open, claiming that any answer must include the voices and perspectives of those whose livelihoods and identities are closely connected to the land.



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Megan Blomfield
University of Sheffield

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