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US Embassy photo by Vince Alongi

A Long (and Still Unfinished) Road to Democracy

March 9, 2016 | By David Morris

The founding fathers minced no words about their distrust of the masses.

(By Laura Nawrocik under a Creative Commons license.)

Can We Trust Our Drinking Water?

February 17, 2016 | By Daniel Moss

With the unfolding horror of Flint’s water crisis, filling a glass of tap water suddenly feels risky.

Throughout history, water quality has been a challenge—cholera, dysentery, and other diseases have felled great cities. Today, more than a billion people remain without safe water access around the world.

The debate about saving the village hospital on the TV show mirrors the fate of community hospitals in the US today. (Photo by  Kevin Oliver under a Creative Commons license.)

What Downton Abbey Teaches Us About Health Care

February 17, 2016 | By David Morris

As the rightly acclaimed TV series Downton Abbey unspools its final episode some fans have criticized the producers decision to devote so much time to a debate about the future of Downton’s Cottage Hospital. The show makes the issue mostly personal with delightfully snippy exchanges between Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham who speaks for a way of life that is passing, and her relative Isobel, a nurse and daughter of physicians, who is the voice of modernity.

Piazza Verdi in Bologna, a city incorporating commons practices into its government operations. (By Tyler Durdan under a Creative Commons license)

City as a Commons: Flint to Italy

February 8, 2016 | By Jay Walljasper

The disaster with Flint, Michigan’s drinking water, incited by political leaders more devoted to fiscal austerity than the common good, illuminates why it’s important to think of our cities as commons--human creations that belong to all residents, not just the wealthy and politically well-connected. 

The commons itself means all the many things we share together rather than own privately--a list that starts with air, water, parks and streets and expands to include more complex entities such as the Internet, civic organizations and entire communities.    

Since 1597, this acequia (irrigation canal) near Espanola, New Mexico has been collaboratively managed. (Photo by NCRS New Mexico under a Creative Commons license)

Patterns of Commoning

February 3, 2016

In Valais in the Swiss Alps, an elaborate system of irrigation canals has existed for half a millennium. In the high-altitude Sacred Valley of the Incas, in Peru, the Quechua people have cultivated the richest diversity of potatoes anywhere on the planet since time immemorial. Since the time of Stephen the Great in the late 1400s, people in the Eastern Carpathians have managed their forests jointly through community-based institutions known as obștea, a tradition that has even survived fifty years of state dictatorship in the twentieth century.

(By AJ Shroetlin under a creative commons license)

MDs Now Prescribe Walking to Boost Your Health

January 21, 2016 | By Jay Walljasper

Everyone knows walking is good for you.

It’s plain common sense, backed by a wealth of recent medical research. In fact, a major new study found that lack of physical activity is twice as deadly for us as obesity.  

Photo by Lawrence OP under a Creative Commons license.  

10 Commandments of Commons Economics

January 21, 2016

As we have tried to show elsewhere, the emergence of commons-oriented peer production has generated the emergence of a new logic of collaboration between open productive communities who created shared resources (commons) through contributions, and those market-oriented entities that created added value on top or along these shared commons.

Canadians of all backgrounds rally for First Nations' rights in Vancouver at an Idle No More demonstration in 2012. (Photo by Eyesplash under a Creative Commons license.)

The Best Defense Against Ecological Ruin

January 21, 2016

In a boardroom in a soaring high-rise on Wall Street, Indigenous activist Arthur Manuel is sitting across from one of the most powerful financial agents in North America.

It’s 2004, and Manuel is on a typical mission. Part of a line of distinguished Indigenous leaders from western Canada, Manuel is what you might call an economic hit-man for the right cause. A brilliant thinker trained in law, he has devoted himself to fighting Canada’s policies toward Indigenous peoples by assailing the government where it hurts most – in its pocketbook.

Bernie Sanders speaking in Des Moines. (Photo by Phil Roeder under a Creative Commons license) 

The Authenticity of Bernie Sanders

January 18, 2016

I’ve been involved in politics my whole life, from stuffing envelopes to knocking on doors in all kinds of weather to working closely with politicians. So, my bullshit alarm is on a hair-trigger alert in the presence of most politicians—and it goes off with regularity, even among politicians who I agree with.

Athens can teach us about what makes people happy. (Photo by Doug under a Creative Commons license.)

What's the Secret of Making a Happy City?

December 23, 2015

“What are cities for?” and “Who owns them?” These are two of the questions addressed by award-winning journalist Charles Montgomery in his book, Happy City.  As the title of his book suggests, Montgomery ties these two questions to the issue of happiness.  If the pursuit of happiness is something important to us, he says, the way we build and live in our cities should reflect our idea of what happiness is. 

Photo by Nick Knupffer under a Creative Commons license

Two Big Mistakes That Cost Obama Public Support

December 19, 2015 | By David Morris

Obama’s Two Mistakes That Lost the Country

Early this year President Obama spoke before the Cleveland Club. After the speech 7th grader Alura Winfrey inquired, “If you could go back to the first day of your first term what advice would you give yourself?”  Obama reflected for a moment and then blithely explained he would have worked harder to sell his economic policies.  

"Choose a line to send this poem into the community on your body." You can see more photos from the show here

Body Lines

November 17, 2015

Lisa Marie Brimmer and I are creative collaborators hailing from Minneapolis, MN. We are poets… writers… artists… actors… producers… creative placemakers…yogis. One of us has a cat named Hendrix. The other listened to Jimi’s music endlessly, obsessively, all throughout high school.  

Kids on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. By Yesy Belajar Memotrek under a Creative Commons license. 

Every Community Should be Safe for Walking

November 17, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

Mounting evidence that a daily walk helps prevent a host of serious diseases is beginning to influence debates about health care, community vitality, poverty, race and opportunity.

Photo by Beth Cortez-Neavel under a Creative Commons license.

New York State Shook by Power of Bottom-Up Politics

November 10, 2015 | By David Morris

New York makes it hard for citizens to influence policy.   They cannot put an issue on the state ballot no matter how many signatures they gather.  And although the state Constitution has a home rule provision, cities and counties lack authority to undertake some of the most basic initiatives.  Even mighty New York City, with over 8 million people, must go hat in hand to Albany to request permission to reduce city speed limits, install red light cameras, open their courts at night, or raise taxes other than those imposed on property. 

By Russell Mondy under a Creative Commons license 

Walking is a Fundamental Human Right

October 23, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

People have walked for justice and economic opportunity throughout American history.

Slaves seeking freedom hiked hundreds of miles on the Underground Railroad, guided by heroes like Harriet Tubman.  Workers wanting a better life for their families walked on picket lines and at protests, rallied by advocates like Cesar Chavez.  People demanding civil rights marched in Selma, Alabama and the National Mall in Washington, led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 

By 顔なし.under a Creative Commons license.

Texas Takes Aim at Democracy

October 21, 2015 | By David Morris

In Texas liberty trumps democracy.  The Texas Supreme Court itself says so.  In a recent decision, three of the five Justice majority bluntly declared. “(O)ur federal and state charters are not, contrary to popular belief, about ‘democracy’.”  They are about “liberty’s primacy”.  

By Jonl1973 under a Creative Commons license. 

What's On Your Commons Bucket List?

October 8, 2015

Everywhere you turn, people are talking about--- and attempting cross off items from---bucket lists. Only a few people are talking about “generativity”--a term introduced by psychologist Erik Erikson, who described it as an active concern for the next generation and a need to leave something of value for people who will live on after we die. But I feel there is a strong connection between the two.

By Pedro Ribeiro Simoes under a Creative Commons license 

Easy Steps to Walking More

September 29, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

Find your natural rhythm

Figure out the best times to walk for your schedule. Maybe it’s first thing in the morning. Or with your kids on the way to school. After lunch. Taking the dog out. After dinner.  Before bedtime. With friends or family on the weekends.  


Seize the opportunity whenever you can

We Now Have a Justice System Just for Corporations

September 29, 2015 | By David Morris

In the last 20 years the Supreme Court has created a parallel judicial system to resolve disputes involving corporations that is effectively run by the very corporations whose behavior is under investigation.

Here is how that judicial coup against an independent judiciary occurred.

A three-acre wasteland on the South Side of Chicago is now an urban oasis. (Photo courtesy of Eden Place)

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle---and Reclaim Common Places

September 28, 2015

Serious issues threaten the health and beauty of much of what we call “the commons.”  We all know this, and at times can feel overwhelmed by what to do about it. 

The “three R's” (reduce, reuse, recycle) help us take action to protect the environment, and this has made a dent in the damage we’ve done to our environment.  Practices related to the three R’s have reduced the amount of waste thrown away and have contributed to the conservation of natural resources.