This article examines the scope for strategies to build natural assets in the hands of low-income individuals and communities. Natural assets include sources of raw materials such as forests and fisheries, and the airsheds, lands, and water bodies that provide "environmental sinks" for the disposal of wastes. These resources become assets when people have rights to access their benefits. Four strategies for natural asset-building are identified: investment to increase the total stock of natural assets; redistribution to transfer natural assets from others; internalization to increase the ability of the poor to capture benefits generated by their stewardship of natural assets; and appropriation to establish rights for the poor to open-access resources. Building on the democratic principle that all individuals have equal rights to clean air, clean water, and other common heritage resources, these strategies simultaneously can advance the goals of poverty reduction, environmental protection, and environmental justice.
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