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COMMONS MAGAZINE

A Great Lakes Commons Journey

August 17, 2016 | By Jay Walljasper

The Great Lakes Commons has launched Great Lakes Journeys, an initiative to celebrate this unparalleled commons through public performances and events.  They’ve just published a handbook, Great Lakes Commons Journey, to guide you on your own adventures. You can download a free PDF here.

Duluth is the next stop, August 20 through September 11.  Here’s what’s in store:

August 20:

There's One Overwhelming Issue in This Election

August 14, 2016 | By David Bollier

Many progressives disagree with Hillary Clinton on a number of issues, in some cases intensely.  But there is one overarching reason we should all be vigorously supporting her election:  The future of the Supreme Court is at stake.

We Were Born Right Now for a Reason

August 14, 2016

“It’s time to talk about the weather. We in trouble friends. Storm clouds are coming in,” chant poets and performers Alix Garcia and Naima Penniman in the opening of their video “When the Last Tree Stands Alone”.  Known collectively as Climbing PoeTree—a spoken-word, hip hop, multimedia duo—Garcia and Penniman eloquently activate an alarm about climate disruption, and then rouse us all to do something about it.

Photo by Dan Burden

America's Walking Renaissance

August 14, 2016 | By Jay Walljasper

Imagine living in one the world's great walking communities.

Your day begins with a stroll—saying hi to neighbors, noticing blooming gardens and enticing shop windows, maybe stopping for a treat on your way to work. 

Weekends are even better.  You step out your door and join the hum of activity on the sidewalk en route to a coffeeshop, park, shopping district, friend’s home, recreation center or house of worship. 

Every American Deserves a Guaranteed Minimum Income

August 14, 2016

 

Rent isn't talked about much in polite society; it’s the 800-pound gorilla everyone pretends isn’t there. Economists in particular rarely mention it, not out of ignorance but because they find it awkward to offend those who collect it disproportionately. The time has come, though, to bring rent out of the closet, for it holds the key to saving both our middle class and planet.

Piada 52 is cooperative cafe in Forli, Italy, hiring unemployed kids, which has helped rivitalize a park once known for drug dealing.  

An Overlooked Element of the Good Life in Italy (and Everywhere)

August 14, 2016 | By Jay Walljasper

There’s a big secret in the global economy, which the powers that be hope we continue to overlook: cooperatives. 

In most Americans’ minds, coops are an admirable but inconsequential business sector.  The place where idealistic shoppers go to score locally-brewed kombucha and fair-trade quinoa. Or maybe where their great-grandparents sold farm commodities during the hard times of the Depression. 

The Tanka staff are now co-owners of the company.  (Photo by Katie Hunter)

Healthy Snack Generates Hope & Income on Pine Ridge Reservation

August 14, 2016 | By Jay Walljasper

The Pine Ridge Indian reservation is not the first place you’d look for good news about creating a new kind of economy that works for everyone. 

This corner of South Dakota includes several of the poorest counties in America, according to census figures. Ninety-seven percent of Pine Ridge’s Lakota Indian population lives below the federal poverty line, reports the American Indian Humanitarian Foundation.  The unemployment rate is well over 50 percent.

The farmer's market in New Rochelle, New York.  (Photo by Project for Public Spaces)

19 Ways to Make Your Community Great

August 14, 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 communities as commons, which belong to all residents not just the wealthy and politically powerful. 

The commons means 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.    

Photo by Gage Skidmore under a Creative Commons license.  

What Should Bernie Do Now?

May 20, 2016 | By David Morris

“What should Bernie do?” That seems to be the question of the month. Permit me to weigh in.

Here’s what we know at this point in the campaign.

For Sanders to have any chance of winning the support of superdelegates he must arrive at the convention with more elected delegates than Hillary.   To do that he needs to win about 65 percent of all elected delegates in the remaining electoral contests.

Illustration by DonkeyHotey under a Creative Commons license.

A Sterling Example of Democracy in Action

April 9, 2016 | By David Morris

Win or lose, Bernie Sanders has made this Democratic primary the most substantive in my lifetime.  Not that Hillary Clinton’s campaign is devoid of ideas.  She has some thoughtful ones. But the boldness of Sanders’ proposals is what has driven this historic and instructive debate.  

The dynamic so far consists of Sanders setting a marker (e.g. free tuition, universal free health care, breaking up the banks, a $15 federal minimum wage, a $1 trillion public works investment); Clinton responds, and their two camps engage in a spirited, intelligent, and surprisingly concrete debate.

How One State Escaped Rule by Wall Street

March 28, 2016

Across the country, people are suffering the consequences of a banking system that’s dominated by a handful of giant banks. Local businesses can’t get the credit they need to grow. College graduates are stumbling under the weight of student debt with sky-high interest rates. Neighborhoods are being stripped of their assets through predatory mortgages and consumer loans.

The Art of the Wild

March 28, 2016

Can we truly know wilderness?  The word itself defies constraint, and contains multiple meanings. “An uncultivated and uninhabited region,” “an empty or pathless area,” and “a confusing multitude” are but a few definitions of wilderness, all of which indicate humans’ complex and changeable relationship to nature.

A screen shot from the movie Norma Rae. 

Norma Rae Is Spinning in Her Grave

March 28, 2016

In 1973, Crystal Lee Sutton, a single mom working in a textile mill in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, was struggling to get by.  The working conditions at the J.P.

Arise! Arise!

March 28, 2016

Arise!  Arise!

See Jean Rohe perform her alternative national anthem here.

 

Nobody Told Me to Dance

By GotCredit under a Creative Commons license.

Want to See a New Kind of Economy?

March 26, 2016

There are many visions of what a new economy might look like: more local than global, more sharing than exploitative, more respectful of the earth than of profit. What’s missing in most of these visions, however, is the system architecture needed to guide the economy in those directions, and keep it headed there for the indefinite future.

Republican mayor Mick Cornett (left) inaugurates one of many new sidewalk projects. (Photo from America Walks case study)

America’s “Worst Walking City” Gets Back on its Feet

March 26, 2016 | By Jay Walljasper

The US gave up on walking in the mid-20th Century—at least planners and politicians did. People on foot were virtually banished from newly constructed neighborhoods.  Experts assured us that cars and buses (and eventually helicopters and jet packs) would efficiently take us everywhere we wanted to go.

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.