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The Control of the Commons project dealt with the attitudes of people to water, in particular the waters of the rivers and canals but also the waters of our ocenas and the way that we, as humans, use, misuse, dream about, desire or fear them. Recently two interesting studies have come out that look very intreresting.

The first was supported by the Austrian Basic Research organisation FWF and is a multidisciplinary project investigating the way that the Danube around Vienna has changed together with the influences of Vienna and its population over the past half millenium. For instance, one paper looks at the role of the river as a place for the transport of energy and food as well as waste during the industrial revolution, while other papers investigate a range of other aspects, see the bottom of this for a list of publications. There is also a nice video of the changes over the 500 years investigated.

The most telling comment is perhaps “An important lesson to be learned from this integrated history of a river and a city is that the river’s dynamics cannot be fully controlled. Future environmental policies on both local and international level will need to be based on the understanding that responsible river regulation requires continuous monitoring.” This is perhaps the scientific basis for what CoC was trying to do.

The second project also looks interesting, dealing with humans intereactions with the ocean, in the form of fishing, up until the industrial revolution. It seems that we 20th century modern humans are not the first ones to mess with the fisheries. The History of Marine Animal Populations, HMAP, has been running for over a decade. It seems that there have been overfishing issues for longer, and there has been fishing going on for something like ten thousand years.

One of the things that I found most interesting here was the massively transdisciplinary groups that worked on these questions. Experts in sociology, sediment modelling, fishing, excrement, accountants, history, paleontology, climate and business come together to look at what has been and what could be. That’s so cool!