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.