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The world's largest road runner welcomes you to Fort Stockton, Texas, a town of 8500 that has banned plastic bags.  Many Texas Republicans want the state to overturn this local law.  (By Dustin & Lori Slater under a Creative Commons license.)

Who Decides What's Best for Our Communities?

February 26, 2015 | By David Morris

Who gets to decide what happens in your community?

Conservative Republicans in Texas are split on the issue. Darren Hodges, a Tea Party councilman in the West Texas city of Fort Stockton, fiercely defends his town’s recent decision to ban plastic bags.  City officials have a “God-given right” to make that decision he tells the New York Times

(By Hoan Luong under a Creative Commons license)

How Much is the Commons Worth?

February 20, 2015

Natural Assets

(By Dena Flows under a Creative Commons license)

If Not For You

February 20, 2015

Bob Dylan’s autobiography Chronicles offers a good demonstration of the old saw that great artists steal — though in fact, I wish we’d get rid of the theft image here. Let us say instead that great artists are commoners. They enter and live in that vast inheritance, the cultural commons.

Would it be possible to map Dylan’s own debts to that heritage? He himself tells us a lot about where to look.

(Photo by uusc4all under a Creative Commons license)

Taking "Development" Into Your Own Hands

February 17, 2015


An in-law of mine who does rural development work in the Philippines  told me about a new water system he worked on in a mountain village. It proceeded in two stages. First, the water was piped to a common containment pool. In stage two it went from there to individual houses.

Drilling for oil in North Dakota provides well-paying jobs but also worsens climate change. (Photo by Lindsey Gee under a Creative Commons license) 

Can We Earn a Living on a Living Planet?

February 17, 2015

It has been a tough couple of years in the effort to unite labor, community, and environmental groups, an alliance that has always been strained.

(Screenshot from a video by Allison Herrera for the Kulture Klub Collaborative)

A Commons Grows in Frogtown

February 10, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

We’re clomping through a field of scrubby, rough grass when Seitu Jones suddenly motions skyward.  I spot an indistinguishable shape soaring above.  “It looks bigger than a hawk,” he says after close study. “I saw an eagle here last winter.  All kinds of birds use this area as a flyway down to the Mississippi River.”

(By Alyce Santoro under a Creative Commons license.)

The Promise of Co-ops Connecting with the Commons

February 10, 2015

For people who participate in commons, peer production or co-operatives, the emerging economy presents a frustrating paradox in the enormous mismatch between cooperative culture on the one hand and the organizational forms, on the other hand, that can sustain it and advance the general well-being of society. 

To love winter, simply find your inner child. (Photo by Tim Pierce under a Creative Commons license)

Cold Weather Cities Can Be Cool

February 9, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

If chilly days are part of  your town’s weather, you can be sure your winters are getting colder in the eyes of the world even though temperatures may be getting warmer.

Four guys hanging out at Gas Works Park on a rare snowy day in Seattle. (By Wonderlane under a Creative Commons license)

How Vitamin C-3 Boosts Our Health

February 3, 2015


Many people take vitamins to promote their health.  Most vitamins come in tablet or capsule form and are sold in bottles.   Recently, Richard Louv in his book, The Nature Principle, suggested a type of vitamin that doesn’t come in pill format.  This is Vitamin N, with “N” referring to nature. 

Louv’s basic theme is that we can become happier, healthier and smarter through more contact with the natural world. A growing number of pediatricians and other physicians are actually prescribing a daily dose of Vitamin N as a way to enhance our health and well-being.

Who's That Man? What's The Book?

January 21, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

The new book by On the Commons' co-founder Peter Barnes has found it way into the hands of Bill Clinton (see photo).

(By Catholic Church of England and Wales under a Creative Commons license)

Vatican Lauds Commons in Fight Against Climate Chaos

January 19, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

Understanding the commons is critical for saving us from climate chaos.  The fact that we all depend on the earth’s atmosphere for survival provides a strong foundation for new policies to protect us from polluters who wantonly jeopardize everyone’s future. 

This view is being voiced frequently on the frontlines of green activism. But it’s also being heard in unexpected places too, such as the Vatican.

(By LaDawna Howard under a CC license.)

The 2014 Election Could Have Turned Out Differently

January 12, 2015 | By David Morris

Since its passage in 2009, ferocious opposition to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) had proven a devastatingly effective electoral strategy for Republicans.  In 2010, they gained a net 63 seats and control of the House of Representatives. They gained political control of 11 additional states, bringing their total to 25.  When the ACA went into effect in late 2013 virtually all 25 were refusing to expand Medicaid, a decision they were permitted to make by a June 2012 Supreme Court ruling overturning the mandatory expansion provision in the law. 

A light rail station in Santa Clara, California. (By Richard Masoner under a CC license)

11 Ways Transit, Bikes & Walk Move Us Toward a Brighter Future

January 11, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

Americans made 10.7 billion trips on public transportation in 2013--the highest number since 1956 when the massive mobilization to build highways and push suburban development began. 

(By Laity Lodge Family Camp under a CC license.)

How to Save the Middle Class When Jobs Don’t Pay

January 9, 2015

There’s long been a notion that, because money is a prerequisite for survival and security, everyone should be assured some income just for being alive. The notion has been advanced by liberals such as James Tobin, John Kenneth Galbraith, and George McGovern, and by conservatives like Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Richard Nixon. It’s embedded in the board game Monopoly, in which all players get equal payments when they pass Go.


And yet, with one exception, Americans have been unable to agree on any plan

New York's High Line is a popular poster child for Creative Placemaking. (By David Berkowitz under a CC license)

What's All the Buzz About Creative Placemaking?

January 8, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

This is an exciting time for America’s neighborhoods as people come together--block by block, coast to coast--to boost the places they call home.  Too many communities are still devastated by disinvestment, poverty and crime, but signs of hope are sprouting everywhere as folks roll up their sleeves to restore a sense of place and possibility in cities, suburbs and small towns

Drinking water for New York City is protected by strict land use policies in places far from the city. (By David Leip under a CC license.)

An Unexpected Success Story Links Our Health to Wild Lands

January 6, 2015

Environmental disasters caused by human folly are all too familiar. But what about the environmental serendipity? The unexpected stories where nature and humans co-exist harmoniously.  They do happen, and some may be found close at hand by looking at your faucet and following the water back to its source.

By the Catholic Church of England and Wales under a CC license. 

Will Pope Francis' Humanitarian Values Shape Church Policies?

December 16, 2014 | By David Morris

On December 10th the Vatican released the text of still another vigorous message by Pope Francis in support of oppressed workers.  “(M)illions of people today – children, women and men of all ages – are deprived of freedom and are forced to live in conditions akin to slavery,” he asserts.

(By Chris Goldberg under a CC license)

The Retail Jungle

December 15, 2014 | By David Morris

Every month the federal government issues a new jobs report.  Then, the stock market gyrates, pundits pundify, politicians politic.  Whether employment expands slowly or fast one central fact remains. The fastest growing occupations all pay low wages: retail salespersons, cashiers, food preparation and food service workers such as waiters and waitresses.   

By Chuck Grimmett under a CC license

Alaska Deftly Balances Privacy Rights and Public Interest

December 9, 2014 | By David Morris

Politicians left and right often use pet phrases to justify their positions:  states rights, individual liberty, personal responsibility.  Rarely are these consistently applied. 

Even more rarely do politicians or political parties offer a coherent framework for deciding when a higher level of government should preempt a lower level of government or when individual liberty trumps state regulation.  Which makes what has happened in Alaska so refreshing and instructive.  The issue addressed was the right of individuals to use drugs when the state outlaws their use.

Great city neighborhoods are often mid-rise, not high-rise. (By La Citta Vita under a

Great city neighborhoods are often mid-rise, not high-rise. (By La Citta Vita under a CC license) 

How to Create Commons-Friendly Neighborhoods

December 4, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

Battle lines are shaping up across American cities and suburbs today over urban density.  On one side stand neighbors and developers who explain that convenient transit, walkable communities,  environmental protection and continuing economic growth depend on welcoming more people-per-acre to our communities. On the other side stand developers and neighbors who plead that everything we cherish about our communities is about to vanish in the wake of hulking mega-projects.