Celebrating the Commons

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  • Book: CELEBRATING THE COMMONS. People, Ideas, and Stories for a New Year. On The Commons 2012.

URL = http://onthecommons.org/sites/default/files/celebrating-the-commons.pdf

A book of readings on the topic of the commons.


Excerpts

Why Should We Care About the Commons in the Modern World?

JAY WALLJASPER:

It matters more than ever in the age of the Internet and a global economy Although it is a centuries-old way of life, the commons remains essential to our survival and happiness—even in the advanced industrial world.

The natural commons makes life itself possible thanks to air, water, biodiversity and DNA. The cultural commons makes human civilization possible through the sharing of knowledge, language, inventions, stories and art. The social commons makes our modern way of life possible through educational institutions, medical expertise, engineering knowhow and communications tools. Our democratic and community institutions are based on the principles of participatory citizenship embodied in the commons. Even the market economy depends on the commons for the natural resources and human capital that drive its profits, as well as the legal and regulatory systems without which it would fall apart.

Unfortunately, the commons today is under assault. The natural environment continues to suffer devastation, including the specter of global climate disruption. Privatization policies fence us out of resources that once could be useful to everyone, and budget-squeezed governments and civic institutions scale back on services upon which we depend. Open access to the Internet is being threatened.

Meanwhile many people are convinced their security and well-being depend entirely on what they can possess individually, to the detriment of the common good.

But the good news is that people everywhere are standing up to protect and promote what we all share. Some people—inspired by the work of Nobel Prize economics winner Elinor Ostrom, the practices of in-digenous and peasant communities or other examples of the commons around us—are launching a movement to draw attention all the ways that the spirit and practice of the commons can help us solve the pressing problems of our time: economic inequity, environmental decline, social fragmentation, political alienation.

Many other people are not familiar with the term, but continue to roll up their sleeves to do crucial work in their communities, guided by a vision of the common good. They are commoners, too. At this critical historical moment, the commons vision of a society where “we” matters as much as “me”."