Drew Gerkey on Emerging Commons Institutions in Northeast Siberia
"Cooperation and collective action are fundamental to sustainable commons and successful institutions. Yet, our understanding of the conditions that lead to the emergence and endurance of cooperation and collective action remains incomplete. In this presentation, I suggest we can improve our understanding by paying greater attention to the ways environmental change and uncertainty increase interdependence among individuals and compel them to cooperate.
This idea is shaped by long-term ethnographic research with Arctic communities in Siberia and Alaska. While many theories of cooperation assume that individuals are independent—inhabiting an environment where cooperation is unnecessary for long-term survival and well-being—people throughout the Arctic emphasize the importance of interdependence. As one person in Siberia put it bluntly, “In the North, a loner doesn’t survive.”
Drawing on a series of field experiments with indigenous salmon fishers and reindeer herders living on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Northeast Siberia, I describe how interdependence arises in a variety of contexts—from subsistence harvests and food sharing networks to post-Soviet collectives and social movements—and identify the ways environmental change and uncertainty alter existing theories of cooperation and collective action."