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'The Commons' in an Amazonian Context

Flora Lu


The tropical rainforest houses a wealth of both ecological and cultural diversity,

and the species richness, ecosystem services, genetic wealth, and repository

of indigenous and local environmental knowledge stored in this endangered

region represent a global commons at risk. As articulated by Donald Nonini

in the introduction to this forum, ‘the commons’ refers to those assemblages

and ensembles of resources that human beings hold in common or in trust on

behalf of themselves, other living human beings, and past and future generations

of human beings, and that are essential to their biological, cultural, and

social reproduction. In the Amazon, many ecological resources lend themselves

to being held in a commons because of practical reasons, such as the

difficulty of dividing it into smaller pieces (e.g., due to resource unpredictability,

mobility, or the loss of ecological functioning if broken into pieces), and/or

the costliness of excluding potential users. But social reasons and values foster

the communal management of resources as well: various commons exemplify

shared identity, provide economic buffering, mitigate subsistence risk, foster

cooperation and conflict resolution, and serve as a pillar in the edifice of societies

supporting socialization and social reproduction.

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