This chapter mobilises a commons lens to understand environmental labour issues in ongoing struggles for post-capitalist socioecological transformations. Drawing on the ‘working-class community ecologies’ framework, grounded in a discussion on climate justice and just transition movements in Puerto Rico, it is argued that a commons lens is central to expanding the conception of the working class and labour and of working-class resistance and alternatives for a just transition.
- Working-class community ecologies
- Reproductive Commons
- Labour Commons
- Commons Environmentalism
I deeply thank the editors of this volume for their thoughtful, critical engagement and revisions with my text, which significantly improved its final version.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
I am inspired here by the work of David Bollier and Silke Helfrich and their call to think, learn and act as a commoner.
Hardt and Negri (2009) define ‘immaterial commons’ as ‘the languages we create, the social practices we establish, the modes of sociality that define our relationships’, and propose that these are the basis of a postcapitalist transformation. This has been challenged by others who emphasise the material-ecological basis of commons (Tola 2015).
For instance, the reproductive household labour facilitates the productive wage labour, the labour in electric and waterinfrastructure or in growing food allows everyone else to carry out their work.
Common senses refer to dominant ways of perceiving and understanding the world, which emerge through existing relational practices (Gramsci, in Garcia-Lopez et al. 2017). Commoning, by changing everyday practices, can be a key to counter and generating new common senses which are materially and symbolically articulated around commons.
Comunalidad refers to ‘a way of being in which the communal condition, the “us,” forms the first layer of the meaning of our existence’ (Esteva 2014).
There are different visions of JT/CJ, concerning the nature of the changes needed, the agents of such change, and the centrality of social justice concerns (see Chatterton et al. 2013; Giacomini and Turner 2015; JTRC 2018). Here I focus on the more radical/transformative, working-class and community-centred approach.
Here we can see a clear connection to scholars such as Vercellone (2015), who centres on ‘the democratic reappropriation of the welfare state and the re-socialization of money’ as the central aspects of the common.
See also: http://www.pactoecosocialdelsur.com/.
Puerto Rico has the second largest per-area concentration of transgenic seed production in USterritories, after Hawaii.
Adrar, Angela, Olivia Burlingame, Anthony Rogers-White, and Fernando Tormos. 2019. Green New Deal Policies Should Be Fueled by Frontline and Grassroots Power. Public Administration Review. http://www.publicadministrationreview.com/2019/07/16/gnd16/.
Akbulut, Bengi, Federico Demaria, Julian-Francois Gerber, and Joan Martínez-Alier. 2019. Who Promotes Sustainability? Five Theses on the Relationships Between the Degrowth and the Environmental Justice Movements. Ecological Economics 165: 2–9.
Azzellini, Dario. 2018. Labour as a Commons: The Example of Worker-Recuperated Companies. Critical Sociology 44 (4–5): 763–776.
Barca, Stefania. 2014. Laboring the Earth: Transnational Reflections on the Environmental History of Work. Environmental History 19 (1): 3–27.
Barca, Stefania, and Emanuele Leonardi. 2016. Working-Class Communities and Ecology. Reframing Environmental Justice Around the Ilva Steel PLANT in Taranto, Apulia (Italy). In Class, Inequality and Community Development, ed. Mae Shaw and Marjorie Mayo, 59–76. Chicago, IL: Policy Press.
———. 2018. Working-Class Ecology and Union Politics: A Conceptual Topology. Globalizations 15 (4): 487–503.
Benjamin, Craig S., and Terissa E. Turner. 1992. Counterplanning from the Commons: Labour, Capital and the ‘New Social Movements’. Labour, Capital and Society 25 (2): 218–248.
Berman Santana, Deborah. 1996. Kicking Off the Bootstraps: Environment, Development and Community Power in Puerto Rico. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
Bollier, David, and Silke Helfrich. 2015. Patterns of Commoning. Commons Strategy Group and Off the Common Press.
Bresnihan, Patrick. 2016. The More than Human Commons: From Commons to Commoning. In Space, Power and the Commons: The Struggle for Alternative Futures, ed. Samuel Kirwan, Leila Dawney, and Julian Brigstockem, 105–124. New York: Routledge.
Caffentzis, George, and Silvia Federici. 2014. Commons Against and Beyond Capitalism. Community Development Journal 49 (S1): i92–i105.
Catalina M. de Onís. 2018. Energy Colonialism Powers the Ongoing Unnatural Disaster in Puerto Rico. Frontiers in Communication 3.
Chatterton, Paul, David Featherstone, and Paul Routledge. 2013. Articulating Climate Justice in Copenhagen: Antagonism, the Commons, and Solidarity. Antipode 45 (3): 602–620.
CJA – Climate Justice Alliance. 2019. Our Power PR: Moving Towards a Just Recovery. https://climatejusticealliance.org/our-power-puerto-rico-report/. Accessed 17 July 2019.
———. 2020. CJA and the Green New Deal: Centering Frontline Communities in the Just Transition. https://climatejusticealliance.org/gnd/. Accessed 15 July 2020.
Cumbers, Andrew. 2015. Constructing a Global Commons In, Against and Beyond the State. Space and Polity 19 (1): 62–75.
De Angelis, Massimo. 2007. The Beginning of History: Value Struggles and Global Capital. London: Pluto Press.
———. 2014. Social Revolution and the Commons. South Atlantic Quarterly 113 (2): 299–311.
———. 2017. Omnia Sunt Communia: On the Commons and the Transformation to Postcapitalism. Chicago: ZED Books.
De Onís, Catalina M. 2018a. Fueling and Delinking from Energy Coloniality in Puerto Rico. Journal of Applied Communication Research 46 (5): 535–560.
———. 2018b. Energy Colonialism Powers the Ongoing Unnatural Disaster in Puerto Rico. Frontiers in Communication 3.
De Peuter, Greig, and Nick Dyer-Witheford. 2010. Commons and Cooperatives. Affinities. https://ojs.library.queensu.ca/index.php/affinities/article/view/6147.
Escobar, Arturo. 2014. Sentipensar Con La Tierra: Nuevas Lecturas Sobre Desarrollo, Territorio y Diferencia. Medellin: Ediciones Unaula.
Esteva, Gustavo. 2014. Commoning in the New Society. Community Development Journal 49 (suppl_1): i144–i159.
Esteves, Ana M. 2020. Solidarity Economy Markets as ‘Mobilizational Commons’: Re-Signifying the Market Through the Lens of Cooperation. Community Development Journal. https://doi.org/10.1093/cdj/bsaa008.
Federici, Silvia. 2012. Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle. PM Press.
Fox, Diana J., and Jillian M. Smith. 2016. Stewards of Their Island: Rastafari Women’s Activism for the Forests and Waters in Trinidad and Tobago. Resilience 3: 142–168.
García-López, Gustavo A. 2020. Environmental Justice Movements in Puerto Rico: Life-and-Death Struggles and Decolonizing Horizons. Society & Space Magazine, February 25. https://www.societyandspace.org/articles/environmental-justice-movements-in-puerto-rico-life-and-death-struggles-and-decolonizing-horizons. Accessed 10 March 2020.
García-López, Gustavo A., Irina Velicu, and Giacomo D’Alisa. 2017. Performing Counter-Hegemonic Common(s) Senses: Rearticulating Democracy, Community and Forests in Puerto Rico. Capitalism Nature Socialism 28 (3): 88–107.
García-Quijano, Carlos, and Hilda Lloréns. 2017. What Rural, Coastal Puerto Ricans Can Teach Us About Thriving in Times of Crisis. The Conversation, May 31. https://theconversation.com/what-rural-coastal-puerto-ricans-can-teach-us-about-thriving-in-times-of-crisis-76119. Accessed 30 October 2020.
Giacomini, Terran, and Terisa Turner. 2015. The 2014 People’s Climate March and Flood Wall Street Civil Disobedience: Making the Transition to a Post-fossil Capitalist, Commoning Civilization. Capitalism Nature Socialism 26 (2): 27–45.
Giacomini, Terran, Terisa Turner, Ana Isla, and Leigh Brownhill. 2018. Ecofeminism Against Capitalism and for the Commons. Capitalism Nature Socialism 29 (1): 1–6.
Gibson-Graham, Julie-Katharine, Jenny Cameron, and Stephen Healy. 2016. Commoning as a Postcapitalist Politics. In Releasing the Commons, ed. Ash Amin and Phillip Powell, 192–212. New York/London: Routledge.
Giusti-Cordero, Juan A. 1996. Labour, Ecology and History in a Puerto Rican Plantation Region: ‘Classic’ Rural Proletarians Revisited. International Review of Social History 41 (S4): 53–82.
Hardin, Garrett. 1968. The Tragedy of the Commons. Science162 (3859): 1243-1248.
Hardt, Michael. 2010. The Common in Communism. Rethinking Marxism 22 (3): 346–356.
Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. 2009. Commonwealth. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Helfrich, Silke, and David Bollier. 2015. Commons. In Degrowth: A Vocabulary for a New Era, ed. G. D’Alisa, F. Demaria, and G. Kallis, 75–78. London: Routledge.
Huber, Matt. 2019. Climate Change Is Class Struggle. Jacobin, December 19. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/12/on-fire-naomi-klein-review-climate-change.
JTRC – Just Transitions Research Collaborative. 2018. Mapping Just Transition(s) to a Low-Carbon World. United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD).
Klein, Naomi. 2001. Reclaiming the Commons. New Left Review, 9, May/June. https://newleftreview.org/issues/ii9/articles/naomi-klein-reclaiming-the-commons.
Linebaugh, Peter. 2008. The Magna Carta Manifesto: Commons and Liberties for All. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Mascarenhas-Swan, Michelle. 2017. The Case for a Just Transition. In Energy Democracy: Advancing Equity in Clean Energy Solutions, ed. Denise Fairchild and Al Weinrub, 37–56. Washington, DC: Island Press.
Mastini, Ricardo. 2020. A Post-Growth Green New Deal. Uneven Earth (blog), February 17. http://unevenearth.org/2020/02/a-post-growth-green-new-deal/. Accessed 15 July 2020.
Mattei, Ugo. 2013. Protecting the Commons: Water, Culture, and Nature: The Commons Movement in the Italian Struggle Against Neoliberal Governance. South Atlantic Quarterly 112 (2): 366–376.
McCaffrey, Katherine. 2006. Social Struggle Against the US Navy in Vieques, Puerto Rico: Two Movements in History. Latin American Perspectives 33 (1): 83–101.
McCune, Nils, Ivette Perfecto, John Vandermeer, and Katia Avilés-Vázquez. 2018. Disaster Colonialism and Agroecological Brigades in Post-Disaster Puerto Rico. ERPI 2018 International Conference, The Hague, Netherlands.
Meyn, Marianne. 1998. En busca de una sociedad ecológica [In Search of an Ecological Society]. El Semillero. Misión Industrial. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1P4oFAKMnUygFPZFM5JtuPdkNYPIl_mj2/view. Accessed 22 December 2019.
———. 2017. Acerca de Misión Industrial de Puerto Rico [About Mision Industrial]. In Misión Industrial de Puerto Rico, ed. Tania d.M. López. https://misionpr.weebly.com/queacute-es-mipr.html. Accessed 22 December 2019.
Miller, Marian. 2001. Tragedy for the Commons: The Enclosure and Commodification of Knowledge. In The International Political Economy of the Environment: Critical Perspectives, ed. Dimitris Stevis and Valerie Assetto, 111–134. Lynne Rienner Publishers.
Ostrom, Elinor. 1990. GOVERNING THE COMMONS The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Papadimitropoulos, Vangelis. 2017. From the Crisis of Democracy to the Commons. Socialism and Democracy 31 (3): 110–122.
Paudel, Dinesh. 2016. Re-inventing the Commons: Community Forestry as Accumulation without Dispossession in Nepal. The Journal of Peasant Studies 43 (5): 989-1009.
Pelenc, J., G. Wallenborn, J. Milanesi, L. Sébastien, J. Vastenaekels, F. Lajarthe, et al. 2019. Alternative and Resistance Movements: The Two Faces of Sustainability Transformations? Ecological Economics 159: 373–378.
Perkins, Patricia E. 2019. Commoning and Climate Justice. In Making the Commons Dynamic, ed. P. Nayak. London/New York: Routledge.
Queremos Sol. 2020. We Want Sun: Sustainable. Local. Clean. https://www.queremossolpr.com/project-4. Accessed 30 November 2019.
Red Nation. 2020. The Red Deal. Indigenous Action to Save Our Earth. http://therednation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Red-Deal_Part-I_End-The-Occupation-1.pdf. Accessed 10 July 2020.
Routledge, Paul, Andrew Cumbers, and Kate D. Derickson. 2018. States of Just Transition: Realising Climate Justice Through and Against the State. Geoforum 88: 78–86.
Sauvêtre, Pierre. 2018. Forget Ostrom: From the Development Commons to the Common as Social Sovereignty. In The Commons and a New Global Governance, ed. Samuel Cogolati and Jan Wouters. Edward Elgar Publishing.
Singh, Neera. 2013. The Affective Labour of Growing Forests and the Becoming of Environmental Subjects: Rethinking Environmentality in Odisha, India. Geoforum 47: 189–198.
———. 2017. Becoming a Commoner: The Commons as Sites for Affective Socio-Nature Encounters and Co-Becomings. Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organisation 17 (4).
Stevis, Dimitri, David Uzzell, and Nora Räthzel. 2018. The Labour–Nature Relationship: Varieties of Labour Environmentalism. Globalizations 15 (4): 439–453.
Svampa, Maristella, and Enrique Viale. 2020. A View of the Green New Deal from Argentina. Jacobin, June 17. https://jacobinmag.com/2020/06/green-new-deal-argentina-gran-pacto. Accessed 19 June 2020.
Thomas, Roberto. 2019. Ending Colonialism. In Voices from Puerto Rico: Post-Hurricane Maria, ed. Iris Morales, 107–112. New York: Red Sugarcane Press.
Tola, Miriam. 2015. Commoning With/in the Earth: Hardt, Negri and Feminist Natures. Theory& Event 18 (4) Project MUSE. muse.jhu.edu/article/595841.
Tormos-Aponte, Fernando, and Gustavo A. García-López. 2018. Polycentric Struggles: The Experience of the Global Climate Justice Movement. Environmental Policy and Governance 28 (4): 284–294.
Turner, Terisa, and Leigh Brownhill. 2004. We Want Our Land Back: Gendered Class Analysis, the Second Contradiction of Capitalism and Social Movement Theory. Capitalism Nature Socialism 15 (4): 21–40.
Valle, Gabriel. 2020. Learning to be Human Again: Being and Becoming in the Home Garden Commons. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space. https://doi.org/10.1177/2514848620961943.
Velicu, Irina. 2019. De-Growing Environmental Justice: Reflections from Anti-Mining Movements in Eastern Europe. Ecological Economics 159: 271–278.
Velicu, Irina, and Stefania Barca. 2020. The Just Transition and Its Work of Inequality. Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy 16 (1): 263–273.
Vercellone, Carlo. 2015. From the Crisis to the ‘Welfare of the Common’ as a New Mode of Production. Theory, Culture & Society 32 (7–8): 85–99.
Vieta, Marcelo. 2016. Autogestión: Prefiguring a ‘New Cooperativism’ and the ‘Labour Commons’. In Moving Beyond Capitalism, ed. Cliff DuRand, 77–85. London: Routledge.
Woelfle-Erskine, Cleo. 2019. Beavers as Commoners? Invitations to River Restoration Work in a Beavery Mode. Community Development Journal 54 (1): 100–118.
This work was supported by the Stimulus Program for Scientific Endeavors of the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), under contract CEECIND / 04850/2017 / CP1402 / CT0010.
Editors and Affiliations
Rights and permissions
© 2021 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG
About this chapter
Cite this chapter
García-López, G.A. (2021). Commoning Labour, Labouring the Commons: Centring the Commons in Environmental Labour Studies. In: Räthzel, N., Stevis, D., Uzzell, D. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Environmental Labour Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-71909-8_17
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
Print ISBN: 978-3-030-71908-1
Online ISBN: 978-3-030-71909-8
eBook Packages: Social SciencesSocial Sciences (R0)