Operationalizing Green Governance: New Policy Strategies for Ecosystems and Resources: Exploring the Commons

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By Elena Blanco (Environmental Law Research Unit, CALR), Associate Professor of International Economic Law

 

Project: “Operationalizing Green Governance: New Policy Strategies for Ecosystems and Resources: Exploring the Commons” at the Watershed Bristol, 5-6 September 2018.

Neoliberalism has produced multiple, entangled, and intersecting crises that cannot be resolved from within conventional political and legal systems. A liveable, sustainable future requires a fundamental shift towards new ways of thinking and being where the limits of ecosystems and the Earth life systems are respected. As part of this new thinking Bristol was the setting of a second ‘Commons: Law and Politics’ extended two day encounter organized by Elena Blanco (UWE Bristol), David Bollier (Commons author and activist) and Professor Anna Grear (Cardiff).

The workshop addressed the following challenge: how can we transform Western Capitalist crises by using creative ‘legal hacks’ and new types of governance. Watershed provided the inspiring background for an intense two-day practical conversation where seventeen carefully selected contributors from Europe, America and Australia, coming from a range of disciplinary and practice-based backgrounds brought together stories, insights and perspectives. Theorists learnt from practitioners while practitioners were exposed to some imaginative, world-shifting thinking in contemporary scholarship. The relationship between modern capitalist law and the commons was subject to questioning while exploring creative legal hacks capable of inaugurating new patterns of resistance and constructive institution-building for commons-based alternatives.

Areas explicitly discussed included: the relationship and tensions between commons and indigenous cosmovisions; property forms and relations—including relationships concerning land, intellectual effort and the process of ‘invention’; contract as relationality and new rules of exchange, sharing and dissemination; the search for commons-normative market relations and alternative currencies of eco-social engagement; re-imagining law and generating legal hacks to reflect and facilitate each of the foregoing—including the redesign of the corporate form.

The two day workshop was followed by an open lecture by David Bollier – ‘Free, Fait and Alive: The Insurgent Power of the Commons’ on the evening of the 6 September as part of the Bristol Festival of ideas.

This workshop builds on an ongoing research agenda on the operations and legal forms of green governance within the Environmental Law Research Unit, especially a previous “The Future of the Commons” workshop (The Future of the Commons, Blanco, Feb 2018); and Elena Blanco and Razzaque “Natural Resources and the Green Economy”.  A third ‘Local Commons/Green Governance/Circular economy’ event focused on initiatives in Bristol will take place in 2019.

 

2018 Environmental Law Student Conference

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In March UWE Bristol participated with students (and staff) from Cardiff University and Swansea University at this annual Law Conference.

a photo of a green hedgerow in the sun with orange flowers  a teaching room with students in discussion whilst sitting at tables arranged in a horseshoe

Elena Blanco, Associate Professor and Acting Head of the Environmental Law Research Unit, worked with an extremely committed group of students of Environmental Law from UWE’s undergraduate (LLB) and postgraduate courses (LLM and PhD) to organise and run this year’s conference. Now in its fourth year, the Environmental Law Student Conference provides students with an opportunity to present on topics featured in their studies of environmental law, globalisation and natural resources law. The conference also provides the opportunity to network, socialise and share ideas with students from different law schools in the region.

The organising student committee at UWE was integrated with Cleverline Brown (PhD student), Siti Binti  Rosli (LLM) and Saluuga Hassan (LLB 3rd year). The students selected the different panels: Human Rights and the Environment; Climate Change and Trade, Technology and the Future of Environmental Challenges. A variety of students from UWE and Cardiff University participated by giving excellent, provocative and confident presentations and engaging in an open and lively discussion with the audience. Students from Swansea chaired panels and contributed to the discussion.

The day was inspiring and engaging with a wide range of topics featured in the presentations including pollution caused by business activities, environmental pollution, access to water in Israeli occupied Palestinian territories, the need for supranational governance on Climate Change and, the legal implications of alternatives on environmental discourses. From the practical and topical to the conceptual our students showed a keen interest in environmental and sustainability matters as well as being ‘part of the solution’ to environmental challenges from a variety of political and conceptual points of view.

This year a prize was offered to the best presentation by the United Kingdom Enviornmental Law Associaton (UKELA), Wales Working Party. The presentations will be judged by members of UKELA WWP who are legal professionals from Cardiff-based chambers and law firms. The winner will be granted a year’s free membership of this organisation!

The twenty four participants found the event extremely valuable, well organised and run, fun, fluid and well spaced out with a great balance of time to share views and informal discussion and some more formal presentations. Individuals commented (on the feedback sheets returned to the organisers) on how much they enjoyed the opportunity to present in public beyond the classroom and beyond their own university but among such a friendly and welcoming like-minded group of people.

Thomas Neill, a final year LLB student at Swansea University, said: “I found the conference really enjoyable, there were a high quality and varied set of presentations which lead to some really interesting debates. It was also good to be able to network with students from other law schools and hear their thoughts on the issues facing environmental law and enforcement. I found it refreshing to have a wider discussion on environmental law rather than focusing on the issues relevant to my own course”.

Tobechukwu Kanayo Okonkwo, another final year LLB student who attended, said: “My time at the Environmental Conference was an enlightening experience. It allowed me to meet like-minded people and open my mind to different perspectives concerning the environment”.

I personally have enjoyed the experience enormously and plan to continue to work with our talented students further in organising other events and in taking and showcasing our fantastic work further.

Elena Blanco, Associate Professor
Acting Head Environmental Law Research Unit, Bristol Law School (FBL) UWE

Repair Acts

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In March 2018 Elena Blanco was invited to take part in the exciting network of artists, social scientists, lawyers, environmental and social justice activists brought together under the Repair Acts (AHRC Funded project).

Teresa Dillon, Professor of City Futures at the School of Art and Design, UWE (Co-Investigator with Caitlin DeSilvey, Exeter, Co-investigator) brought together a wide-range of perspectives, research and experiences within the creative and exciting background of the Pervasive Media Studio  in the Watershed.

The day moved from the conceptual, to the stories and methodologies of practice and research towards a more socially just, sustainable system that abandons the capitalist poisoning agenda of persistent, unlimited growth. Bringing forward some of the discussion that arose on the research event organised by Elena Blanco on ‘The Future of the Commons’ on a ‘post-value paradigm’ and a new role for law and policy the Repair Acts workshop identified a network of systems change, ideas and policy that emerged as a next step of this creative project that will develop throughout 2018. This was followed by a public event at Arnolfini by with Ravi Agarval, Ben Gaulon and Lara Houston  (Urbanknights.org)   For more information please visit http://repairacts.net/