Atmospheric commons

Within the Sentinel Citizen project, Waag organised the Atmospheric Commons workshop with participants from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, including policymakers, activists, concerned citizens, artists, researchers and scientists. The workshop created insight about the knowledge that was present or missing among participants regarding the local air-pollution situation. It gave participants a better understanding of their position in the debate and their ability to play a role in defining the Atmospheric Commons.

Based on the insights gathered during the workshop, Waag formed the set of recommendations. Recommendations are formulated in a way that proposes very concrete actions to each identified stakeholder.

Common Resource

All stakeholders should recognise air and atmosphere as a common resource.

Living organisms from plants to animals existentially depend on respiratory exchange of gasses and humans are no exception to this. Atmosphere, as a shared resource, should be collectively managed and governed by global communities that assure its sustainability.

Knowledge Society

Policymakers should support open and collaborative research and innovation practices, engaging citizens alongside academia and industry.

Since air-quality impacts not only the health of our economies, but especially that of citizens and the natural world, its maintenance and improvement should be seen as a common societal interest. To act accordingly, the dynamic of institutionalised knowledge production and innovation should be enriched with the democratic and civic production of knowledge. Such a fully-fledged quadruple helix innovation model can foster a knowledge society.

Science Literacy

Policymakers and academia should support citizens in developing scientific literacy to understand urgencies and express their concerns.

Improved science literacy increases the ability to obtain, understand, and use information to gain an empirical understanding of conditions and advocate for, or make, appropriate decisions. Through different activities of schooling and citizen science, citizens can get engaged in a constructive instead of reactive way.

Citizen Engagement

Citizens should be supported to organise themselves around pressing environmental matters.

Constitutional and Human Rights pertain to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. However, articulating such rights always occurs in particular cases by those involved. Citizens should be motivated to develop ways of organising themselves, improve their understanding of matters, approach policymakers with concerns and take informed societal actions. 

Situated Data

Citizens should play an active role in data production. In this way citizens can make sense of their surrounding environment.

While national and international organisations provide open access to general environmental data, citizens would mostly benefit from data products that address their particular situations. Citizens should also develop their own environmental sensing tools based on open source technologies to help them better understand empirical relations.

Citizen-Driven Innovation

Polluting industry should involve citizens in understanding their technological challenges, so citizens can influence policymakers in prioritising research and innovation investments.

Since many polluting industries are running on outdated technologies, citizens’ considerations can stimulate industry and policymakers to invest into  environmentally responsible innovation. Employing new clean technologies is in the interest of all involved stakeholders, despite each benefiting in a different way.


Atmospheric commons should be governed by knowledge society.

Policymakers, environmental institutions and other governmental bodies should operate more inclusively towards citizens’ considerations and together with local industries, based on an understanding of commons. Mutual care for the environment will help bridging distance between citizens and governments and will contribute to rebuilding trust between all stakeholders.