Who does the earth's atmosphere belong to?

Who does the sky belong to?

The declaration of human rights is not enough: All limited resources such as the atmosphere, seas or soil must be regulated in a binding manner under international law

George Adamson once said: "There is an argument about who created the world. The only sure thing is who will destroy it." Translated into the present, this means that a radical rethink is required in order to still be able to avert the catastrophe. In particular, it is important to achieve a revolutionary insight: All limited resources such as the atmosphere, seas or soil must be regulated in a binding manner under international law. Because even today, anyone can use it as a dump room without authorization.

Community property

In economics one speaks of "common pool resources", which can be used by everyone as common property. By our standards, they often appear infinitely large. And even if it is commonly assumed that the earth belongs to humans, this is of course nonsense. However, life on our planet works according to this premise.

Therefore, the atmosphere must also become a common property system of humanity. This means that access to the resource air is not free, as it is no longer a public good. In order to achieve climate policy goals, binding rights of use are required, as this is the only way to protect the preservation and consumption of common property.

If you do not change the ownership structure, it inevitably leads to overload, overuse, pollution and ultimately destruction. The concept of ownership can certainly be argued about, but setting a climate policy goal requires global joint ownership. It is not very promising to limit the rise in temperature without adopting appropriate international regulations.

Unfortunately, the Atmosphere dump room would have to be closed long ago, as too much has already been dumped there unauthorized. In contrast to a landfill, we cannot perceive the precarious location of our airy surroundings with our senses. This is one of the reasons why it is possible that we still operate predominantly according to the ideal of "open access resources". Globally, this means that everyone has access to the resources, but few benefit from them.

A prime example is fishing. Fish are relatively easy to catch and, according to the theory, the resource regulates itself. Either there are more fishermen and fewer fish (at high prices), or fewer fishermen and more fish (at lower prices). However, our actions have long since lost the balance that made this possible. There is less and less diversity in what we do. Instead of fishing seasonally and in the most varied of ways in order to preserve the population, the coarse "full harvest method" is used to plunder until the last sea creature wriggles in the net.

Human duty

The cardinal error of our actions lies in our economy and in an arrogant exaggeration of the human species. Because there are no rights without obligations and with claims alone no responsibility. This is by no means intended to question the declaration of human rights as such, but we have to place ourselves in the context of life.

This is what the InterAction Council thought when it presented the "Universal Declaration of Human Duties" for discussion. There were prominent first-time signers, but not much has happened since then. The declaration is primarily about the duty to treat other people humanely. A single article is not limited to our lives, but includes animals, plants, soil, water and air and obliges people to ensure that nature and fellow creatures are protected and preserved.

Limited Liability Life

In order to preserve the nature in which we live, however, as recently formulated, we have to distance ourselves from our anthropocentric thinking. If we think in terms of human, natural and animal rights, we have not yet understood that everything belongs together.

In addition, we should be clear about why it is we who are responsible. Today we have the factual certainty of the irreversible effects of our actions. When we began to settle down in the Neolithic, subordinating the world to us, i.e. making soil, animals and plants subservient to us, we had no idea what this change in behavior entailed.

Even at the beginning of the industrial revolution, to which we ultimately owe the catastrophe, the consequences could not be clearly seen, even if there were already enough warnings. Human duty leaves us no choice. We are already in the middle of the catastrophe and do not need any more precise predictions to start the necessary cultural change. It's actually very simple: since we can change something, we have to do it too!

However, we shouldn't be so arrogant into thinking that it's all about ourselves. Rather, we are responsible for all species and their habitats. Because species protection is nothing abstract, we are only one species. If we consider ourselves to be the crown of creation, we have to behave that way. But even if we are less important, it is not up to us to determine other forms of life. No matter how we see each other, we have reached the apex at which we have to fit in with nature.

Ultimately, it is also a question of intelligence to resolve one's own cognitive dissonances and not to suppress the connection between behavior and effect any further. Even if it is uncomfortable to take responsibility, a life like there is no tomorrow is selfish, immoral and not worthy of a civilized person. And anyway: Annie Lennox is more motivating than Adamson when she sings: "Hey hey I saved the world today, everybody's happy now, the bad things gone away."

Guest commentary by Matthias Hüttmann, first published on the website of the German Society for Solar Energy.

(Matthias Hüttmann)

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