How will these resources help you?

At A-level, this topic gives the choice of the atmosphere, oceans or Antarctica in studying the principle of common heritage. By their very nature, the global commons are a supra-national resource outside the domain of any one state and their protection requires global co-operation and response. These resources offer a critical analysis of how each is being protected, where we have gone wrong in the past, and what must be done in the little time we have left to save them. These resources are ideal for classroom use as well as background and pre-reading for students for AO1 and AO2, as well as AO3 at GCSE due to their critical and analytical nature. The resources can be applied to many areas of GCSE and A-level Geography in studies of the Living World, or Climate Change Mitigation.    

The importance of Global Co-operation

World Development Report 1999/2000: Chapter 4 Protecting the Global Commons

by World Bank, published by Oxford University Press, (1999), 9780195211245

This highly authoritative, older resource is well suited to A-level studies and introduces students to the concept and challenges of protecting the global commons. Covering a wide range of issues including the sea bed, oceans and biodiversity, its major focus is the atmosphere and climate change. It also includes a small section on Antarctica. The resource focuses on the transition from national to international governance and emphasises that these issues cannot be tackled effectively on the national level. The variety of issues covered supports AO2 in applying the topic across different contexts; be they cities, deserts or oceans. A wide range of maps and graphs are used to support the analysis and students’ practice of AO3 skills. This resource would also suit higher ability GCSE students as extra reading and challenge for their studies of the Living World and Climate Change Mitigation, as well as an introduction for non-specialist teachers.     

The issues

Global Commons: Issues, Concerns and Strategies

by Mohanan Bhaskaran Pillai and Geetha Ganapathy-Doré, published by Sage Publications Pvt. Ltd, (2020), 9789353883607

The book begins with the 'tragedy of the commons' theoretical concept and provides context to students on why, in our current economic system, the commons need protection. This resource explores a range of concerns in detail and is very well researched. For A-level courses, teachers can draw on extracts rather than the book as a whole. Chapters 4 and 5 focus on the atmosphere and climate change and the most relevant chapters of a much large section on the subject. Chapters 10 and 11 explore microplastics in our oceans and Indian ocean garbage. The book’s conclusion is an interesting read as it fast-forwards fifty years to imagine how the global commons may look based on a range of scenarios.  

The atmosphere

Net Zero: How We Stop Causing Climate Change

by Dieter Helm, published by Harper Collins Publishers, (2021), 9780008404499

This book begins by highlighting the ineffectiveness of international agreements in its first section, entitled ’30 Wasted Years’. Since the Kyoto and Paris Agreements, ppm of CO2 in air are still rising. The graphs that support this are hard to argue with and are ideal for classroom use (AO4 at GCSE). In the thirty years that Dieter predicts we have left to reach net zero, his economic solution of ‘the polluter pays’ places the responsibility on the consumer. As Dieter points out, reducing our national carbon production means nothing if we simply outsource it to nations like China which produce our goods with an even higher carbon footprint than we would. The book is ideal for use with GCSE students in their Natural Hazards units and assessing mitigation strategies of climate change, and obviously A-level students in their studies of protecting the global commons from an atmosphere perspective.

The oceans

Rewilding the Sea: How to Save our Oceans

by Charles Clover, published by Penguin, (2022), 9781529144031

This book has attracted some impressive advocates, including George Monbiot, Stephen Fry, Isabella Tree and Margaret Attwood, and is reviewed as ‘game changing’ and ‘powerful'. The book is very accessible in its conversational tone, yet authoritative in its accurately harsh criticism of modern fishing methods. Trawling and dredging for example, based on latest research, emit more CO2 than the aviation industry in their damage to continental shelves. The book is ideal for A-level students studying the oceans option of the 'global commons' unit, as well as GCSE students in their studies of The Challenge of Resource Management and sustainable fishing. The key message is that we must let our oceans repair as we re-examine our relationship with them. If we are willing, repairing the damage is within our grasp. 

Audiovisual clip

The Earthshot Prize: Repairing Our Planet - Revive Our Oceans (Full Programme)

published by BBC, (2021)

An insightful episode on how we should focus our attention on reviving the oceans.

Further materials

Global Commons Alliance, Website of the Global Commons Alliance Visit this website
The Antarctic Treaty Explained by British Antarctic Survey, Natural Environment Research Council Access this resource
David Newell is Head of Geography at Millais School in Horsham, West Sussex. He has held the GA’s Secondary Geography Quality Mark since 2015, and has worked as a Specialist Leader in Education, advising schools on improving their Geography provision.

Text © David Newell, 2022.