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Cosmopolitan Commons

Cosmopolitan Commons: Sharing Resources and Risks across Borders

Nil Disco
Eda Kranakis
Series: Infrastructures
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Cosmopolitan Commons
    Book Description:

    With the advent of modernity, the sharing of resources and infrastructures rapidly expanded beyond local communities into regional, national, and even transnational space -- nowhere as visibly as in Europe, with its small-scale political divisions. This volume views these shared resource spaces as the seedbeds of a new generation of technology-rich bureaucratic and transnational commons. Drawing on the theory of cosmopolitanism, which seeks to model the dynamics of an increasingly interdependent world, and on the tradition of commons scholarship inspired by the late Elinor Ostrom, the book develops a new theory of "cosmopolitan commons" that provides a framework for merging the study of technology with such issues as risk, moral order, and sustainability at levels beyond the nation-state. After laying out the theoretical framework, the book presents case studies that explore the empirical nuances: airspace as transport commons, radio broadcasting, hydropower, weather forecasting and genetic diversity as information commons, transboundary air pollution, and two "capstone" studies of interlinked, temporally layered commons: one on overlapping commons within the North Sea for freight, fishing, and fossil fuels; and one on commons for transport, salmon fishing, and clean water in the Rhine.Contributors:Håkon With Andersen, Nil Disco, Paul N. Edwards, Arne Kaijser, Eda Kranakis, Kristiina Korjonen-Kuusipuro, Tiago Saraiva, Nina WormbsThe hardcover edition does not include a dust jacket.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-31333-9
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)
    Nil Disco and Eda Kranakis

    The idea for this book emerged from Transnational Infrastructures and the Rise of Contemporary Europe, a project in which several of the contributors participated.¹ As we grappled with the emergence of transnationally managed infrastructures and resource-spaces in Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, we were struck by the resemblance to commons. Since the Industrial Revolution, it appeared to us, European nations had created—or had been forced to share—resources and infrastructures that transcended national boundaries. To manage the ensuing challenges and risks, they had had to create and abide by common rules for the maintenance and the use...

  5. 2 Toward a Theory of Cosmopolitan Commons
    (pp. 13-54)
    Nil Disco and Eda Kranakis

    Cosmopolitan commons have proliferated and increased in size and scope since the onset of industrialization. If they are not yet the rule in the transnational and global ordering of resources, society, and space, neither are they any longer the exception. Their increasing salience makes it necessary to reframe commons theory to take account of historical evolution and the increased scale, scope, technization, and bureaucratization of commons regimes. In this chapter we review the existing foundations of commons theory and consider how to reframe and extend it to accommodate this new generation of commons. We discuss the need to historicize commons...

  6. I Valorizing Nature

    • 3 The “Good Miracle”: Building a European Airspace Commons, 1919–1939
      (pp. 57-96)
      Eda Kranakis

      Today there are humans in airspace every hour of every day. Two billion of us spend time there every year, along with millions of tons of mail and freight.¹ We have become so accustomed to our use of this resource-space that we tend to overlook its challenges. We take it for granted that we can fly wherever and whenever, our checked baggage meeting us at the end of the trip, or that we can routinely and safely send and receive items by air to and from just about anywhere. In the early decades of human colonization of airspace, none of...

    • 4 Negotiating the Radio Spectrum: The Incessant Labor of Maintaining Space for European Broadcasting
      (pp. 97-122)
      Nina Wormbs

      I deeply regret that the recent changes have not given to Stockholm and Sundsvall the improved conditions that we had striven for.

      The trouble with Stockholm comes once again from Radio-Toulouse with which we have had to make several changes to get anything like order in Central and Western Europe; the trouble with Sundsvall comes from the new powerful Vienna station which seems to have a wavemeter several meters out of the standard.

      I hope that by now both Stockholm and Sundsvall are free from interference. The latter should be quite free by going to 550 as Budapest has risen...

    • 5 Conflict and Cooperation: Negotiating a Transnational Hydropower Commons on the Karelian Isthmus
      (pp. 123-152)
      Kristiina Korjonen-Kuusipuro

      This chapter examines the genesis of a transnational hydropower commons across a barrier of ideological division and hostility. This hydropower commons is located on the upper reaches of the 150-kilometer Vuoksi River, which runs across the Karelian Isthmus. From the date of Finland’s independence from Russia in 1917 1 until 1940, the Vuoksi lay entirely within Finland’s borders. Its awe-inspiring rapids and mythical forests earned it a place in the Finnish epic poem, theKalevala, and hence the Vuoksi figured prominently in Finnish identity. Yet the Winter War of 1939–40 between Finland and the Soviet Union resulted in Finland...

  7. II Protecting Humans and Nature

    • 6 Predicting the Weather: An Information Commons for Europe and the World
      (pp. 155-184)
      Paul N. Edwards

      Weather affects virtually everything people do: where and how we live, what we eat, what we can and cannot do on any given day. A shared resource when it brings sunlight, warmth, and water, it is a shared risk when it brings floods, droughts, or extremes of temperature. Weather affects agriculture, urban planning, government, insurance, and much else. It even gets inside us. We routinely describe moods, sensations, and relationships as “stormy,” “foggy,” “cold,” or “sunny.” We can’t change the weather (at least not on purpose), so to escape its tyranny we go indoors. Architects design buildings that protect us...

    • 7 Breeding Europe: Crop Diversity, Gene Banks, and Commoners
      (pp. 185-212)
      Tiago Saraiva

      The 30-year campaign to create a World Gene Bank culminated in 2008 with the opening of a Global Seed Vault inside a mountain on Norway’s Svalbard Archipelago, far north of the Arctic Circle. The precarious resource of crop diversity seems now to be safely conserved inside this technologically updated green version of Noah’s Ark. It promises to conserve agricultural biological diversity for the benefit of humankind in case of major catastrophes (tsunamis, terrorist attacks, nuclear war, insurrections).¹ With a storage capacity of about 4.5 million seed samples, it serves as the equivalent of a secure bank vault for the multiple...

    • 8 Under a Common Acid Sky: Negotiating Transboundary Air Pollution in Europe
      (pp. 213-242)
      Arne Kaijser

      As the night shift came off work at the Forsmark nuclear power plant, 100 kilometers north of Stockholm, at 7 a.m. on Monday, April 28, 1986, events quickly took a dramatic turn. Passing through the routine contamination control, the workers all showed enhanced levels of radioactivity on their clothes. Further investigation revealed a thin layer of radioactive dust on the grounds all around the power station, but no evidence of leakage or any other mishap. The plant was evacuated nonetheless. Only a skeleton crew remained to monitor operations. At 10 a.m., the contamination was reported to the Swedish Radiation Protection...

  8. III Temporal Layering and Interlinking of Cosmopolitan Commons in Nature’s Spaces

    • 9 Changing Technology, Changing Commons: Freight, Fish, and Oil in the North Sea
      (pp. 245-270)
      Håkon With Anderson

      The sea is a strange and surprising place. Even though it occupies more than two-thirds of the surface of the Earth, it is not subject to the traditional tesselation into countries and nation-states that we see on land. On the contrary, the sea was regarded as a kind of free space, not subject to territorial claims and national sovereignty; or so it seemed at least up to the middle of the twentieth century. This two-thirds of the Earth’s surface that is open for all to enter and to use would seem to be one of the largest undivided shared resource-spaces...

    • 10 “One Touch of Nature Makes the Whole World Kin”: Ships, Fish, Phenol, and the Rhine, 1815–2000
      (pp. 271-316)
      Nil Disco

      This chapter examines three cosmopolitan commons that were created to govern resources on and in the Rhine River: a “navigational” commons (which dates back to 1815), a “salmon” commons (which emerged in the 1870s), and a “clean water” commons (which began to take shape after 1950). Despite their heterogeneity and their separation in time, the three commons are historically, institutionally, and legally intertwined, not least thanks to the salmon’s intolerance for polluted water. In what follows, I will show how, for the Rhine, the salmon—this “one touch of nature,” to quote Shakespeare—has been instrumental in “making the whole...

    • 11 Conclusions
      (pp. 317-328)
      Nil Disco and Eda Kranakis

      Cosmopolitanism seeks to explain the reorientation of national and international affairs to accommodate proliferating interdependencies, yet the task of adding empirical depth and weight to this theoretical framework has only begun¹—particularly in regard to the roles of nature and technology in cosmopolitan dynamics. The present book attempts not only to enlarge cosmopolitan theory along these lines, but also to provide it with empirical foundations by showing how cosmopolitan commons enhance and regulate the shared use of large natural structures and human-built infrastructures. The case studies reveal the recurring dynamics of cosmopolitan commons—the continually evolving and multiplying international treaties,...

  9. Index
    (pp. 329-346)