Environmental Ethics

Volume 46, Issue 1, Spring 2024

Private Property and the Environment

Raisa Mulatinho SimoesOrcid-ID, Vicki L. Birchfield
Pages 47-69

Biodiversity and the Digital Transformation
Rethinking Private Property and Global Governance in the Twenty-first Century

Taking the regime established by the Convention on Biological Diversity as a foundation, the purpose of this article is twofold. First, it examines how the international biodiversity regime integrates the private property paradigm into its toolbox for conservation and sustainability and then critically evaluates the shortcomings of the intellectual property mechanism. Second, it argues that the increasing ubiquity of open access emerging technologies should lead the international community to carefully assess the benefits for conservation research of reverting to a framework that places biodiversity within the global commons. The impasse between global commons advocates and the intellectual property status quo obscures the underlying problematic of the “commodity fiction” of biodiversity and increasing use of digital sequence information likely exacerbates power asymmetries. One remedy explored here is an alternative to these two approaches that dislodges rather than discards the concept of private property. Drawing inspiration from Polanyi and building on May (2010), the article shows how a hybrid approach bridging a public and private conception of genetic resources and traditional knowledge could more effectively and equitably distribute benefits to countries and communities providing resources of value to industry.