What is meant by the global commons? How are they exploited and polluted?

“Global commons” refers to natural resources or areas that are not owned by any particular entity and lie outside the jurisdiction of any one nation, yet are shared and used by everyone. They are considered common goods and their accessibility and health have repercussions for the entire planet.

Exploitation and pollution of the global commons can occur in the following ways:

1. Overfishing in international waters: The high seas face significant exploitation from fishing vessels that overharvest, leading to rapid declines in fish populations. Since these waters are not under the jurisdiction of any single nation, monitoring and regulating them can be difficult.

2. Air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions: As industries and nations emit greenhouse gases, these accumulate in the global atmosphere, leading to climate change. While the emissions may originate in one country, their effects are felt worldwide.

3. Ozone layer depletion: Certain chemicals, like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), once used widely in products such as refrigerants and aerosol sprays, damage the ozone layer in the atmosphere, increasing the risk of harmful UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface.

4. Space debris: With increasing space exploration and satellite launches, there’s a growing amount of space debris or “space junk” orbiting Earth. This poses threats to both manned and unmanned spacecraft.

5. Pollution and waste in Antarctica: Although governed by international treaties to remain a zone for peace and scientific research, there have been instances of waste and environmental degradation in Antarctica from research stations and human activities.

6. Deep-sea mining: As resources on land become scarcer, there’s growing interest in mining the deep seabed for minerals. This could have unknown and potentially devastating impacts on the fragile ecosystems of the deep sea.

Addressing the challenges of the global commons requires international cooperation. Treaties like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) for maritime issues, the Montreal Protocol for protecting the ozone layer, and the Outer Space Treaty for activities in space are examples of international efforts to protect and manage the global commons.

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