Governing the Planetary Commons: A Focus on the Amazon

How are the planetary commons to be governed in an ecologically responsible, just, democratic, and resilient way?

Governing the Planetary Commons: A Focus on the Amazon

How are the planetary commons to be governed in an ecologically responsible, just, democratic, and resilient way?


There are increasing calls to recognize Earth’s biophysical systems that provide Earth system resilience and stability as planetary commons. The planetary commons include globally shared geographic regions currently recognized under the global commons, but more importantly, also all biophysical systems that secure critical functions of the Earth system irrespective of national boundaries. Examples are the atmosphere and oceans; tipping elements such as the Amazon Rainforest; and ecosystems such as wetlands.

As a new paradigm for thinking about planetary resilience, the planetary commons must ideally achieve the following: safeguard critical Earth system functions that regulate planetary resilience; create responsibilities and stewardship obligations to safeguard planetary resilience; prevent crossing over into tipping points; and ensure a just world for everyone, now and in the future. While declaring the planetary commons is a first critical step, governing these commons raises many complex and unsettled issues.

As the first of its kind to confront the foregoing complexities, this project aims to answer the overarching question: How are the planetary commons to be governed in an ecologically responsible, just, democratic, and resilient way? While it is broadly concerned with the issue of planetary commons governance, the project focuses specifically on the Amazon Rainforest, a critically important Earth system tipping element that spans nine countries and that is broadly representative of the many complexities that planetary commons governance give rise to.

Sub-questions that arise in the planetary commons governance context of the Amazon include:

  • Which governance models (e.g., nested, democratic, Earth system-focused) are most suitable for the Amazon?
  • What type of shared stewardship obligations arise for Amazonian states as territorial custodians and other states that benefit from a resilient Amazon, and how could the relationships and obligations between these states be governed?
  • How could pluriversal knowledges embedded in Earth system science, law, political science, indigenous knowledge, and art shape visions of planetary commons governance?
  • How could alternative ways of knowing, being, seeing and caring, often expressed through rights of nature, inform governance in ways that dissolve entrenched dualisms while avoiding legacies and practices of (neo-) colonialism and eco-fascism?

Afshin Akhtar-Khavari

Ainhoa Montoya

JB Ruhl


Fellowship call is now closed.



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