Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 August 2021
Climate change undermines the property concepts embedded within histories of capitalism and colonialism, placing them in crisis. As Arctic territories and Pacific island states recede to sea level rise, as wildfires burn through suburban communities in the wealthy world, as global fresh water runs dry, uncertainty shadows what it means to own, to use, and to inhabit. For the wealthier world, survival may depend on owning and occupying less, upon reducing the scale of supply chains and stewarding regional resources. Enter "the commons,” a concept and praxis tied to sustainability in the form of stable subsistence in anthropological literatures, to Indigenous economies and cosmologies worldwide, and to European peasant economies. For the world’s Indigenous, the concept may be, at best, an incomplete translation of Indigenous traditional knowledges. Yet the commons as concept attempts to combat extractive, colonial economies, offering a justice-oriented and site-specific alternative to the state and the market as organizing systems and stories. This chapter considers the dynamic intellectual history of the commons as it relates to climate change, environmentalism and decolonization.