The University of Arizona

The miner and the activist: an Australian parable for our carbon constrained world

James Arvanitakis, Spike Boydell


This paper reviews the meaning of carbon by applying five broad questions to this controversial substance: what is land; what is property; what is ownership; what is value; and what are property rights? By exploring each of these questions, we aim to show that a multidimensional and complex understanding is required for effective policy discussions to confront the challenge of global warming. We engage the perspective of a miner and an environmental activist to illustrate the tensions relating to carbon pollution in an era of climate change, and in so doing we offer a parable for our carbon constrained world. We conclude by considering the implications of property rights for carbon for polluters, governments, people as individuals with a right to breathe clean air, as well as the global commons and other species.

Key Words: Carbon, pollution, land, ownership, property rights, value

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