An online lecture and in-depth discussion with Michael Cox

Friday, October 28 at 12pm EST


Despite evidence that a broad diversity of environmental rights systems is effectively used across societies, naïve theories about which types of environmental property rights are best have persisted. A central device in this discourse is the tragedy of the commons, which predicts environmental degradation in the absence of ownership arrangements. This narrative locates environmental rights as a technical solution that can generate win-win outcomes for people and the environment. It is also often assumed in this framing that ownership should be private; that is to say, individual. Another assumption is that rights to the environment should not be accompanied by obligations to it. In this talk I question each of these assumptions and present some of the diversity of environmental rights that we see in the world. By understanding this diversity, we are better equipped to engage with it without dismissing it, and to learn from the advantages of different approaches in time and place.


Michael Cox is an environmental social scientist who studies environmental policy and governance with a focus on community-based natural resource management. He has conducted empirical fieldwork-based analyses of irrigation systems in the Southwest United States, Peru and Kenya. His current empirical work is focused on community-based fisheries and rice farming in the Dominican Republic, where he collaborates with AgroFrontera, a local Dominican NGO.

He is the co-founder and co-host of the In Common Podcast, which is the official podcast of the International Association for the Study of the Commons: He is finishing a book project on environmental property rights, to be published in 2023.

Reading Material:

Diver, S., M. Vaughan, M. Baker-Médard, and H. Lukacs. 2019. Recognizing “reciprocal relations” to restore community access to land and water. International journal of the commons 13(1):400.