In the 1990s, Governor Hickel became interested in the concept of the “Commons.” This led to the writing of his book Crisis of the Commons: The Alaska Solution in 2002 with a Russian edition published and launched in Moscow in 2004. In the introduction, Hickel describes the Commons and his observations of how it applies to Alaska, the Arctic, and other regions. See excerpts below.
“Not many people are fortunate enough to attend the birth of a great idea. In the decade of the 1950s, in a new land called Alaska, there were many believers that anything was possible, and the future was full of hope. Around us lay a vast realm of natural beauty and extraordinary wealth in oil, gas, fish, timber, and minerals. Within us lay a shared spirit to explore and build, to invent a great civilization, and to do it together, as one people.
“The new idea was this: we, the people of the world, own most of this planet in common. Our future depends on learning to use and develop this commons for the good of the total, and not just for the few. Here in the Far North we built a new state based on that concept. It’s the only place like it. The Alaskan people, through our state government, won ownership of much of our land and our natural resources. Using neither classic capitalism nor socialism, we have developed a new way to prosperity, based on common ownership and rooted in constitutional democracy.
“If you or I were to travel the world’s great, open resource regions, too often we would see poor people living on rich land, and many of those lands are commons. They include immense swaths of Africa and Asia, the Middle East, the Arctic, the Antarctic, vast lands of Canada and the rest of the Americas. The United States of America owns 600 million acres of publicly owned lands and 3.5 billion acres of continental shelf.
“In a larger sense, all of us own the seas in common. We own the air and space. If we could learn to use these God-given resources productively for the benefit of all – not just one leader, one family, one business, or a handful of corporations – the world would stand today on the threshold of wealth and social advancement we cannot yet imagine. There would be no legitimate reason for poverty.”
Note: It was Artur Chilingarov, a Russian engineer and oceanographer and member of the Upper House of the Duma (parliament), who would awaken the world to the importance and potential of the Arctic. In 2007, he planted the Russian flag two and a half miles beneath the North Pole in the Arctic Ocean from a small Mir submersible vehicle. Just as the Russian launch of Sputnik awoke the world to the Space Age, Chilingarov’s bold action announced the beginning of the Age of the Arctic that Hickel had predicted 34 years earlier.