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Hunting with Polar Bears: Questioning Assumptions of Passive Property

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Dowsley, Martha; Schmidt, J. J.
Conference: Governing Shared Resources: Connecting Local Experience to Global Challenges, the Twelfth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Commons
Location: Cheltenham, England
Conf. Date: July 14-18, 2008
Date: 2008
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1176
Sector: Wildlife
Region: North America
Subject(s): polar bears
natural resources
Abstract: "Research in Canada's Arctic reveals that Inuit conceptualize both hunters and polar bears as active participants of the hunt and as part of a larger socio-economic system requiring the involvement of both humans and animals. The Inuit viewpoint creates serious conflicts with Western wildlife management systems that utilize a more traditional common property approach. This finding calls into question assumptions in common pool resource theories that treat natural resources as inherently passive and fully available for human appropriation. In fact, when polar bears are understood as active participants in the hunt, the rights of use, exclusion and transfer typically associated with property ownership in Western thought require significant revision. In this paper we present an argument for the incorporation of natural resources as worthy of consideration in common pool resource decisions and identify how a tenure system of active relationships operates in Arctic Canada. We offer this argument as one example of how a common pool resource may be managed within a larger socio-economic system without the attendant assumption that natural resources exist passively outside of ownership regimes."

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