Due to the localized nature of mountains, their great diversity, and the fact that their specificity is rarely taken into account by national policies, their inscription on the world's environmental agenda can be considered a tour de force. Through the case study of mountains, this paper focuses on the process of framing an environmental object as “global.” While “global” is usually considered a descriptor, I here look at it as a contingent, constructed, and contested notion. The construction of an object and its framing as environmental and as global are political acts. The goal of this paper is not to demonstrate whether the elaboration of a global mountain agenda is “right” or “wrong” but to demonstrate that it is contingent, i.e. relevant for certain actors in certain contexts. The identification of mountains as a global issue has proven to have implications for certain actors harboring specific agendas and to be a powerful motor for collective action in a globalized world.

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Author notes

* This article was written while a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Environmental Policy and Planning Group (Department of Urban Studies and Planning) and in the Program on Environmental Governance and Sustainability (Center for International Studies), thanks to a fellowship granted by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Grant PA001-117432). The author is most grateful to JoAnn Carmin for her thoughtful guidance and Bernard Debarbieux for long-term and stimulating discussions on the topic. The author also wishes to thank Stacy VanDeveer, Pamela Siska, Jennifer Clapp, Henrik Selin, Ken Conca, the editors, and the three anonymous reviewers of Global Environmental Politics for their valuable comments and suggestions. Finally, I express my gratitude to all the people I have interviewed for their historical insights about how mountains became a global issue.