the day of the birth of Common Home of Humanity
24th September, 2018
On September 24, 2018, in the Rectory of the University of Porto, in Portugal, the Common Home of Humanity was born.
In the legal act of the public deed, were present the cities of Porto and V.N. Gaia, the Portuguese Ministry of Environment, the NGO Zero – Associação Sistema Terrestre Sustentável, several individuals, and a total of 7 Portuguese Universities:
University of Porto
University of Aveiro
University of Coimbra
Nova University of Lisbon
University of Lisbon
University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro
University of Madeira
All of these entities and individualities became the founders of the Common Home of Humanity. During the ceremony Paulo Magalhães, Will Steffen and Viriato Soromenho-Marques, made the following presentations:
November 2002, the Prestige oil tanker accident on the Galician coast near the Portuguese border caused a huge black tide, which ran from the north of Portugal to Vendée in France. I volunteered in the operation of cleaning and rehabilitating oiled birds on the affected Portuguese beaches. Coming home after a long day, I found myself faced with a bill to pay for restoration works in my condominium. I realised that the majority of this amount was for the restoration of windows that were not part of my home. Thoroughly puzzled, I began to study the legal features of living in a condominium. The more I read, the more it became evident that the windows in question were co-owned by all my neighbours that inhabit the condominium. We all had a similar bill and a shared responsibility. This was my moment of epiphany. A global system perspective with personal context literally at my doorstep.
Dealing with the national effects of a transboundary black tide from Prestige accident and my own responsibilities of living in a shared property brought clarity in perceiving Planet Earth as mankind’s condominium. It was the moment where I truly realised the concept of common property; of individual and shared responsibility; of the complexity and the laws of living in a condominium; and, most importantly the powerful potential of this model to re-frame the understanding of ownership and responsibility. Such same clarity and understanding can be applied, what so far, in global environmental dialogues, but it is still considerably challenging and considered "impossible". This marked my vision of the Common Home of Humanity.
Today the concept of the planetary condominium is taught, studied and researched in academia, it has captured the interest of many and has become an integral part of the dialogue and work of renowned local, national and global institutions.
I am equally honoured and pleased to announce that under the patronage and endowment of the Government of Portugal, the Common Home of Humanity is headquartered in “Port of Gaïa”- after which “Portugal” is named. This is of great significance to me as it takes inspiration from both the Greek Goddess of Earth, “Gaïa”, and the poignant work of James Lovelock who used the name “Gaïa” to conceptualise the Earth System.
My efforts to bring this perspective, born of my personal experience, to mainstream thinking have come far, not only because of the continued, unwavering support of my peers and colleagues but also because I truly believe that knowing that we are residents of the planetary condominium resonates amongst us all personally.
The construction of the Common Home Humanity is a civilization journey. When the possibility of coexistence of two overlapping legal regimes in the same physical space - the condominium - and the infinite possibilities opened by such coexistence came across, the journey started and it was clear that building knowledge and validating the possible solutions was going to require contributions from all fields of expertise.
The planetary condominium presents an opportunity to reconfigure our working models to involve everyone and everybody - not just the academic elite - to know their part and to play their part, as we all work to preserve the common heritage of humankind- the Common Home of Humanity.
Founder, Common Home of Humanity
Board of Directors
Bureau of General Assembly
Headquarters in Gaia/porto
The view of Porto from the CHH Headquarters, at the Geophysical Institute of University of Porto, in Gaia
Gaia - A Universal Concept
In Greek mythology, Gaia is the second primordial deity, born after Chaos, and one of the first inhabitants of Olympus. Gaia originated Uranus, Heaven. Heaven and Earth, in other words, Uranus and Gaia, originated countless other deities as well as oceans, mountains, plants and life. Gaia thus becomes a universal concept which, just as the Earth System itself, crosses all borders. Much more than a collection of living beings and ecosystems, Gaia represents this living planet and its complex intertwined network, an interaction of beings and phenomena from which emerges a whole incomparably larger than the sum of its parts. For millennia, Gaia meant planet Earth for humanity. It still has symbolic value and power. It raises consciousness and awareness of human beings towards their cradle, their space ship, their home and their life-support system. That whole, the ancestral mother of all life, is Gaia.
This meaning was the basis for the choice of the name Gaia for the first scientific theory, developed by James Lovelock, that proposed planet Earth as a single functionally interdependent living organism. The hypothesis was presented in 1969 stating that the Earth’s biosphere generates, maintains and regulates the conditions for its own survival, unlike what traditional theories suggested. With the recent discovery of the climate change phenomenon and of “Planetary Boundaries”, the development and accomplishment of Lovelock’s initial hypothesis have been gaining credibility among scientists.
Gaia is also the name of a city by the mouth of the Douro River, on the other bank across from the city of Porto, which, through a merger of words of Porto and Gaia, originated the name of Portugal. Very appropriately, the port of Gaia has been chosen to host the Common Home of Humanity.
Aerial view of Geophysical Institute in Gaia, with the Douro River. The Headquarters of Common Home of Humanity
Linking the geographical dimension with the systemic approach
Given that it was from Portugal that many ships set sail on the ocean voyages of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, which started the reconnoitring of the global geographical space of our Common Home, it is interesting that the integration of the natural sciences and consequent decoding of Earth System functioning is also linked to Portugal. The then Executive-Director of IGBP (International Geosphere-Biosphere Program) and Editor-in-Chief of the “Global Change and the Earth System” of 2004 (still considered today the most encompassing study on the Earth System), Will Steffen, stated: “In fact, this rapidly emerging knowledge of the Earth as a single, integrated system also has some interesting connections to Portugal.
Arguably the most influential international scientific body in the development of the concept of the Earth System has been the IGBP. Interestingly, the most critical meeting of the IGBP Scientific Meeting was held in 1999 in Estoril, Portugal. There the Committee determined the objective, scope and work plan for the production of the IGBP synthesis project, which resulted in the book “Global Change and the Earth System: A Planet Under Pressure”, still one of the best syntheses of Earth System science. The Estoril meeting also initiated the planning for the 2001 Amsterdam Conference, which was the world’s largest global change scientific conference up to that time.
The Estoril meeting also featured an explicit link to Ferdinand Magellan (Fernão de Magalhães) and the age of Portuguese exploration. The IGBP Scientific Committee visited the Portuguese Academy of Sciences in Lisbon, where the scientists had the fortune to see the original navigational maps of Ferdinand Magellan, where for the first time the islands of Japan appear on a map in the western world.
Inspired by this link to the great age of global exploration, the IGBP Chairman Berrien Moore III, as he looked out over the Atlantic Ocean from the conference room in Estoril, challenged the IGBP scientific community to go out on their own voyage of scientific exploration to understand our home planet as a single system – our own life support system. So, from the perspective of Earth System science, it would be truly fitting for the Common Home of Humanity to be located in Portugal, and in Porto and Gaia in particular”.
The Geophysical Institute of the University of Porto
Gaia, the city by the mouth of the Douro River, on the other bank across from the city of Porto, and overlooking Porto, is where the Geophysical Observatory of Serra do Pilar of the Faculty of Sciences of University of Porto, devoted to the study of the planet we inhabit since 1885 is located. This is a very appropriate place to house the Common Home of Humanity.
The Meteorological Station and Magnetic House of the City of Porto, initially also called the Princess Amelia Observatory, was inaugurated in 1885 and is comprised of a two-storey central building, standing atop the hill upstream from the Monastery of Serra do Pilar in Vila Nova de Gaia, and of an outdoor space where part of the climate and seismic monitoring equipment is set up. Initially integrated into the Ministry of the Kingdom, it was created as a subsidiary station of the King Louis Meteorological Observatory, inaugurated in 1854 at the Polytechnic School of Lisbon. The initial objective of both was to conduct meteorological and climate studies, calculate the likelihood of good or bad weather, and issue warnings for navigators and fishermen.
It was then integrated into the Geophysical Institute of the University of Porto housed in the same premises, and later became connected to research and teaching in areas such as Seismology, Phenology and Geoelectricity. Despite having had a past role in the collection of nuclear testing surveillance data, the present and future of the seismic station of the University of Porto located in Gaia, are inevitably connected to the detection of natural seismic activity and the study of the planet we inhabit. One of its key projects is linked to the observation and understanding of the Earth as a system, thanks to the Earth System Observatory that would be part of the Headquarters of the CHH.
 Lovelock, J. (1996) Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, Oxford University Press