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Technofixes Will not Work Without Absolute Scale Limits to Commons Resource Use

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
25th September 2013


A contribution by Brian Davey:

‘A commons regime takes steps to protect the “resource” that the commons jointly manages/owns/cares for. More specifically the words “protecting the resource” means setting an absolute scale limit on its use. The commoners will set a scale of use for grazing a commons, or fishing a river, or taking water from an irrigation system. That is to say they set a maximum physically measured use – so many cows over the summer, so many gallons or water, so many fish per season. (NOT, so much $ worth of milk etc)

That applies to scale uses on carbon emissions and hence on allowable sales of fossil fuels and land uses for biomass too. When it comes to the growth of the internet, the growth of IT, and the growth of the fab labs, they must all be part of an economic system subjected to a 6% per annum contraction in carbon emissions, imposed by some regime that is there to protect the atmospheric commons, that is imposing an absolute ceiling on the use of the atmosphere as a resource for burning fuels with by some kind of permit scheme. (What’s more in particular places, particular production regimes must be subjected to maximum allowable uses of water to produce silicon wafers and so on)
WITHIN that kind of administered regime, WITHIN that kind of contracting ceiling, the further technological development of the internet, the further development of IT, the growth of fab labs, would all be helpful to make the contraction possible. The p2p technological changes would all very likely be beneficial.

WITHOUT that kind of administered regime, WITHOUT the contracting ceiling, the further technological development of the internet, development of IT and fab labs etc is going to be caught in an entirely different dynamic of Khazzoom Brookes, and actually spurs on the destructive process.

The kind of administered regime and the contracting ceiling is not a p2p or a technologically driven process is it the result of the global community, humanity, finding some means to restrain aggregate carbon energy use. The atmospheric commons cannot be protected by a techno fix alone.

Techno fixes only become helpful AFTER the basic contracting framework have been imposed and the framework is not per se technological. AFTER the framework is in place technological developments can be helpful. BEFORE they are unhelpful.

Natural resource limits always trump technological uses for natural resources as the health of the ecological system has priority – technological communities (including p2p ones) have to live with this and should not be indulged with the idea that they can solve all the problems when they are currently a part of the driver of the problems.”

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