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Catherine Iorns Magallanes and Linda Sheehan

If we want to encourage the emergence of the new economy that is envisaged in his book, then the legal framework that supports it will need to change. This chapter outlines the essentials of a legal framework that arises from a paradigm that recognizes the importance of nature and re-prioritizes humans’ place within it. It focuses on three essential elements: the recognition of the intrinsic value of nature, the recognition of inherent rights of nature, and the establishment of a framework of human responsibility for nature. Such a legal framework would entail a paradigm shift; however, adoption of such elements in law can also help achieve such a shift in mindset as well as in practice. To this end, this chapter includes examples of existing and proposed laws adopting these three essential and intertwined elements, with global focus areas that include California and Aotearoa New Zealand.

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David Bollier

There is a long history, stretching back to the Magna Carta in 1215, of commoners seeking to use law to decriminalize their sharing and secure legal recognition for their self-organized management of shared wealth – “commoning”. However, because state law is philosophically committed to a social order based on individual property rights, private capital accumulation and extractive relationships with nature, it often does not have the motivation, vocabulary, or legal instruments to adequately protect collective, long-term and ecological interests. This chapter describes a variety of creative initiatives attempting to reinvent law for the commons in disparate settings – indigenous, subsistence, digital, urban, local and organizational, among others – which are part of an emerging effort to legitimate the commons as a generative social form.

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Edited by Melissa K. Scanlan

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Edited by Melissa K. Scanlan

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Janelle Orsi

This chapter describes three principles for organizations to embed in their legal, financial, and governance structures in order to build commons and move beyond the extractive structures of conventional business. “The commons” is emerging as a unifying framework for the creation of sustainable and equitable economies, and organizations everywhere will increasingly ask their lawyers for guidance on how to set up a “commons-based” entity structure. Land trusts, energy cooperatives, water mutuals, worker cooperatives, food cooperatives and housing cooperatives will all require that lawyers approach legal structural design with a mindset that decisively rejects business-as-usual. These principles emerge from practice and are designed to be immediately applicable in any organization.

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Shalanda H. Baker

The battle over the future of net energy metering in the United States is alive and well. Utilities decry the benefits of compensating homeowners for rooftop solar generation, often relying on the argument that net energy metering programs harm low-income populations that lack opportunities to participate in the solar revolution. Thus, the argument goes, the status quo should remain to protect the most vulnerable. Solar advocates, on the other hand, push for a broader analysis of the true benefits of rooftop solar generation to overall grid stability and to reduce carbon emissions. They argue for expanding rooftop solar markets where such markets are available, and urge the modern utility structure to change to foster deeper resiliency. This chapter posits that energy justice lies at the heart of this debate, but it is missing from the discourse. Neither side of the debate advances a comprehensive solution that resolves the vulnerability question while also expanding opportunities for access. The chapter argues that curtailing extensive net energy metering programs without creating authentic opportunities for participation in renewable energy generation by low-income communities deepens inequality and vulnerability. Although the existing community energy programs, as currently contemplated, hold some promise, positioning such initiatives within the current electric utility generation paradigm might actually decrease resiliency in low-income communities. The energy justice frame illuminates several pathways to resolve these potentially contradictory outcomes. This chapter suggests that community energy initiatives, while imperfect, offer an opportunity to locate renewable energy resources within a commons, thereby advancing energy justice and upending the current analytical frame that holds together the net energy metering debate. Community energy programs can address vulnerability by expanding market access to renewable energy generation for low-income communities, obviating the need to maintain the current generation monopoly held by modern utilities. Moreover, if crafted correctly, community energy programs could also address inequality by providing communities an opportunity to generate, own and distribute renewable energy. Finally, transformative community-based energy planning development offers an opportunity to increase resiliency, transform existing economic relationships, reconceptualise the nature of energy, and promote equality.