Author Archive

Can tourism encourage the preservation of commons?

December 12, 2016


A recent report by the Red List showed that the population of giraffes have declined by 30% in the last 30 years, leaving the species vulnerable to extinction. The decline in the population is due to loss of habitat, poaching, and civil unrest in the surrounding areas. As one the tallest animal that walks our planet and an iconic figure of the African grasslands, the loss of giraffes as a species would be detrimental to the future generations who would never get to experience seeing one of these creatures in nature.

For many locals, wild animals can be seen as pests as they tend to consume or trample the agriculture that is being cultivated in rural villages. Many organizations are attempting to change this mindset and help the locals to view the wildlife as resources they can use to bring tourism into their communities. Project Spotlight with Campfire Association in Zimbabwe is one example of how rural villages are being education about the role of wild animals in the development of their communities. This project build solar powered fences around the villages to protect their livestock and agriculture from being eaten and trampled by lions and elephants and changed the relationship between the villagers and the surrounding animals. Since the involvement of Campfire Association, the Binga district went from having thirteen primary schools and no secondary schools to having 56 primary schools and nine secondary schools within fifteen years as the community continues to grow from the income from wildlife tourism.

Another project that works to conserve nature through the institutional development of the local community is the Khomas Environmental Education Program (KEEP). KEEP works with year 3 and 4 children from urban areas in Namibia to reconnect with nature through a field-based environmental educational program. The objective of this project is to build a culture of environmental awareness, social responsibility, and action in Namibia. This program is run by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation which sees the value of giraffes as a means of tourism but more importantly, they value giraffes as beautiful creatures that should be preserved so future generations can experience seeing a giraffe in nature.

While tourism can be incredibly detrimental to the environment, it can also be a means for preserving the commons and the resources within the commons. It is a booming industry that can be mismanaged but it can also bring millions of dollars towards preserving some of nature’s most beautiful creatures.


A small win for environmental justice

December 11, 2016


Just last week, it was announced that the Dakota Access Pipeline will not be granted a permit to drill under the Missouri River to build a pipeline that would transport crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. This announcement came after 10 months of peaceful protesting at the Sacred Stone Camp which was organized by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and saw a coalition with dozens of other tribes. The numbers at the Sacred Stone Camp swelled to over 1000 people at times.

The proposed construction of the pipeline was a half mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation after being rerouted from the original planned construction site which was deemed as potentially dangerous due to the risk of polluting Bismark’s water source. This announcement comes as a victory to the protesters who feared the environmental and cultural damage the pipeline could cause. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe claimed that the pipeline would destroy sacred sites and could cause irreversible environmental damage.

While the project has been halted, the Energy Transfer Partners could still file to appeal the decision. The president-elect Trump has also showed support for the project and could overturn the decision once he is sworn into office. While many protesters celebrated and saw the halting of the project as a victory, many are weary with distrust.

This protest has been a battle about enclosures, commons, boundaries, and social labor. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is facing enclosures as they are being alienated from the decision making of their land and resources. They claim to not have been consulted about the plans to build the pipeline only a half mile from the border of their reservation. The pipeline would distance the tribe from many cultural sites that would be destroyed during construction. The pipeline could also lead the tribe to be alienated from their water source as the pipeline has great potential to pollute the local water supply. The value for water as a life giving common is reflected in the slogan that is widely used in the protest, “Water is Life”. It is a common that cannot be denied to a single person.

The boundary of the reservation is being threatened by the pipeline as it is being constructed only a half mile from the border. The boundary of the reservation is based on the value that water is life and the value of inclusion. This common value was the catalyst for other tribes to come together in a formation of social labor. Even tribes whose resources are not directly being threatened joined the protests as they fought for the boundary of indigenous rights.

The battle over the construction of the DAPL has been won but the war between environmental justice and corporate greed is still rages on. 

Two years later, Flint is still without drinkable water

December 1, 2016


It has been over two years since the residence of Flint, Michigan started complaining about the quality of the water. This began when the city of Flint switched their water supply from the Detroit water system to the Flint River due budget cuts. The water that services tens of thousands of homes is heavily polluted with lead and other corrosive water agents.  The level of pollution is due to the fact that the Department for Environmental Quality was discovered to not be treating the water with anti-corrosive agents, which is violation of the federal law.

The city of Flint is an extremely marginalized community with 41% of the population living under the poverty line and 56% of the population of African American descent. The town use to be home to one of the largest General Motor’s plants but has been in decline since GM started closing it’s plants in the 1980’s.

The residents are now having to use bottled water and water filters that are being delivered by government officials. The city is now having to replace the water infrastructure which includes miles of aging pipes. The repairs are estimated to cost $60 million and take around 15 years to complete with over 30,000 homes needing service lines replaced. The residence of Flint have consumed unsafe levels of lead and are now facing major health issues. 

Water as a human right

November 21, 2016

slovenia-lake This past week, Slovenia amended its constitution to include access to water as a right of it’s citizens and stopping the commercialization of the vital resource. The water will remain a public good under the jurisdiction of the state and separate from the market economy. Around the world, the trend is for public goods to be privatized which creates enclosures for thousands of vulnerable people. By keeping water a common, Slovenia is ensuring the rights of its’ citizens to access a life giving resource without being exploited by large corporations. Being the first EU nation to include the right to water in the constitution, Slovenia is taking a strong stance for environmental justice during a time where the future of environmental sustainability seems uncertain.

Enclosures, social systems, and the law: The female experience in a male dominated society

November 7, 2016

donna-velo-egittoWomen in Saudi Arabia were recently granted the right to vote and run in the national and local elections in 2015. Many saw this as a step towards democratisation and a step towards women’s equality. In reality, women remain oppressed with disproportionate amount of public space to exercise their new rights while still fighting the enclosures and social systems that are rooted in gender inequality.

Changing one aspect of a social system is not enough to change the whole system. Giving women the right to run for office and vote in elections does very little for furthering gender equality when women are unable to attend government municipal meetings even when holding office. These changes are very superficial and only give the illusion of access to a wider social system when women are still confined to a space that is controlled by men and guardians.

Not only are women denied political space to participate in, they are also denied public space without permission from a male figure. You can watch the documentary by Mona El-Naggar from the New York Times to see how women are affected by the new election laws or read some tweets from women in Saudi Arabia expressing their experiences, good and bad, about life under guardianship.

No one can deny the progress that many societies are experiencing when it comes towards gender equality. As we see laws becoming more inclusive of female involvement and equality, we also need to see change happening on a cultural level. The attitude towards women is vital to achieving meaningful progress.

The Rise of Sharing Economies and it’s Unseen Enclosures

October 31, 2016


With the rise of Sharing Economies (a socio-economic ecosystem built around the sharing of human, physical, and intellectual resources, The People Who Share), many thought that this could signal the end of oppressive capitalist structures where individuals are pressured into an endless consumer cycle of purchasing items that are seen as vital to the survival and enjoyment of modern day life. This new system was thought to bring people together to share the resources they have with those who are unable to obtain said resource. Airbnb and Uber are seen as the pioneers of the Sharing Economy as technology has enabled the rise of peer to peer exchanges. While many embrace the ethos of the Sharing Economy and allow individuals access to their resources, others are exploiting this new niche in the economy and accumulating resources that were once available to the general public for their own private interest.

London is currently facing a housing crises as home ownership is at a 30 year low due to the fact that housing prices are increasing at a rate that is unobtainable as salaries have remained stagnant since the recent financial crises. This means that there is an increased size of the population that relies on yearly rental contracts. For a family with children, this is highly unstable as there is always the threat of an increase of rent at the end of a contract that may force the family to relocate to somewhere that has more reasonable prices.

With the rise of popularity of flat sharing platforms like Airbnb, many see it as supplementing the housing crises for numerous reasons. As Airbnb becomes the preferred choice of holiday accommodation for young travellers, it contributes to the $23 billion dollar vacation rental market. With such a valuable market, many landlords are finding it more profitable to rent to short term vacation renters rather than long term renters from London. As more and more properties are turning into full time Airbnb rentals, it takes away properties that are usually rented to long term renters and creates a scarcity of rental properties with a growing number of people unable to find suitable housing in London.

Many of the listings are also listed for the whole property rather than a room in the host’s house as the platform originally intended. Not only is the entire property rented, many hosts have multiple listings on Airbnb which indicates that the host is a professional land lord who runs the property as a business and does not live in any of the properties which is in violation of most short-term rental laws. Rather than sharing a property to create more options for accommodation and creating a common to benefit the host and the renter, Airbnb is taking properties away from the local housing market to benefit the host while displacing residents.

Many of the full time professional landlords are also letting their properties illegally as there is a 90 day per year rental limit that doesn’t require special permits. They are also able to bypass many food, tax, health and fire safety regulations that are required for hotels by the British Hospitality Association. Many local communities are also feel the disruption from a full-time Airbnb rental from the increase of noise, traffic, and displacement of local residents.

The rise of the Sharing Economy created a common for people to share high value capital resources like houses and cars. Paradoxically, the creation of this common also created new enclosures as people  continue to exploite the capitalistic nature of this society.