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 in the thousands for restoration works in my condominium. I realised that 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 neighbors 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 and my responsibilities living in a shared property brought clarity in perceiving Planet Earth as mankind’s condominium. It was the moment that redefined the concept of common property; individual and shared responsibility; the complexity and 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 clarity could make possible, what so far, in global environmental dialogues, is still considerably challenging and near "impossible". This marked the birth 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, and has become an integral part of the dialogue and work of renowned local, national and global institutions.

I am equally honored 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.


Paulo Magalhães
Founder, Common Home of Humanity


Instituto Geofísico da Universidade do Porto

R. de Rodrigues de Freitas

4430-211, V. N. de Gaia - Portugal





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