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COMMONS MAGAZINE

(By Lindsay France, courtesy of Cornell University) 

(By Garry Knight under a Creative Commons license)

Green Dream

April 12, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

At a time when ecological destruction is more dire than ever, the work of  protecting the planet depends on dreamers just as much as of scientists, activists, public officials and business leaders. 

While it’s critical to wrestle power away from those who believe that corporate profits are all that matter, we won’t achieve a sustainable, just future without serious attention to imagining a different kind of world. That’s why it’s great to see artists playing an increasingly active role in the climate justice movement today.

Neighbors explore their community in Phoenix, one of many towns around the world hosting Jane's Walks in early May. (By David Crummey under a Creative Commons license)

Take a Walk on the Jane Side

March 29, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

Spring is back, so here's a fresh idea to celebrate the season and discover hidden pleasures in your neighborhood-- organize a Jane’s Walk.

Since 2007, thousands of people in more than 100 cities around the world enjoy the first weekend of May exploring nature, culture, history and architecture in their own backyard as way to mark Jane Jacobs’ birthday.

Local residents were involved in the creation of the Campus Martius square in downtown Detroit, and they've embraced it as one of the city's favorite places. (By Michigan Municipal League under a Creative Commons license.) 

Placemaking---What Exactly Does It Mean?

March 28, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

Placemaking is an evocative, inspiring word heard more and more these days to describe grassroots efforts to revitalize public spaces. And the term creative placemaking is emerging to describe the growing role for the arts in urban redevelopment. 

A Visionary Plan to Save the Great Lakes

March 28, 2015

Out of our love for the Great Lakes and our responsibilities to future generations, we are calling for a renewed relationship and mode of governance for the Great Lakes Commons. We are asking you to join us.

A place of one's own:  Boyce Park in Pittsburgh. (By Kevin Conor Keller under a Creative Commons license)

Commons Are For Kids!

March 27, 2015

The Rio Grande Bosque (forest) is one of the most beautiful and most loved open space areas in Albuquerque.  Here, large cottonwood trees, coyote willow, and New Mexico olive provide habitat for beaver, turtles, snakes, porcupines, and numerous species of birds.   A shady 16-mile multi-use path running through the Bosque is popular with hikers, bikers, skaters, bird watchers, photographers, and nature lovers of all ages. 

(By Graham Coreil-Allen under a Creative Commons license.)

America’s Most Walkable Suburb Offers Lessons for Towns Everywhere

March 25, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

Suburban life has always been synonymous with long hours in the car-- going to work, school, the grocery store, the mall, soccer practice and friends’ homes. Some people even drive to take a walk.

While Red State public universities are fielding topnotch basketball teams, state politicians are slashing university budgets.  (By Brad J. Ward under a Creative Commons license)

Politics Boil Beneath Surface of NCAA March Madness

March 25, 2015 | By David Morris

When television cameras zoomed in on Kansas Governor Sam Brownback in the middle of the Kansas-Wichita State NCAA basketball game a thunderous chorus of boos broke out.  Viewers gained a rare glimpse of the politics behind March Madness. The announcers pointedly ignored the boos.

Public universities in Red States field top notch basketball teams, but state politicians in many of these states are slashing the universities' budgets. (By Brad J. Ward under a Creative Commons license.)

Politics Boil Beneath the Surface of NCAA March Madness

March 25, 2015 | By David Morris

When television cameras zoomed in on Kansas Governor Sam Brownback in the middle of the Kansas-Wichita State NCAA basketball game a thunderous chorus of boos broke out.  Viewers gained a rare glimpse of the politics behind March Madness. The announcers pointedly ignored the boos.

Tessah Wickus (left), director of Northern Wisconsin's Seed Savers Alliance, says seed libraries help more young people become farmers (Photo courtesy of Cable Community Farm.) 

Seed Libraries Fight for the Right to Share

March 20, 2015

It’s easy to take seeds for granted. Tiny dry pods hidden in packets and sacks, they make a brief appearance as gardeners and farmers collect them for future planting then later drop them into soil. They are not “what’s for dinner,” yet without them there would be no dinner. Seeds are the forgotten heroes of food—and of life itself.

Heritage Park YMCA in Minneapolis caters to seniors.  (By Twin Cities LISC under a Creative Commons license.)

Who Says Government Can't Innovate?

March 18, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

One of the greatest challenges in protecting and promoting the commons-- everything belongs to all of us together instead of being privately owned--is the growing sentiment that public institutions such as government are hopelessly inept.

(By Jimmy Emerson under a Creative Commons license.) 

Can a Labor Union Save the US Mail?

March 12, 2015 | By David Morris

Let’s begin with the bad news. The U.S. Post Office, the oldest, most respected and ubiquitous of all public institutions is fast disappearing.  In recent years management has shuttered half the nation's mail processing plants and put 10 percent of all local post offices up for sale.  A third of all post offices, most of them in rural areas, have had their hours slashed.  Hundreds of full time, highly experienced postmasters knowledgeable about the people and the communities they serve have been dumped unceremoniously, often replaced by part timers.

Bear Butte, sacred to 30 Indian tribes in North America. (By Clint Koehler under a Creative Commons license)

Saving the World’s Holy Places

March 10, 2015 | By Jay Walljasper

Imagine if your place of worship or other sacred spot were  bulldozed to make way for the golden arches of McDonald’s. That’s how many indigenous people regard the continuing development of their sacred lands for mining, tourism, highways or other uses.

A very popular toy doll who shall remain nameless due to lawsuit fears.  (By Deborah is Lola under a Creative Commons license) 

The Plot to Privatize Common Knowledge

March 10, 2015 | By David Bollier

Over the past three decades, modern culture has become infatuated with the idea that knowledge should be owned like real estate or stock shares. The original idea, of course, is that copyrights, trademarks and patents reward people for their creative labors and thereby boosts the common good.

(By Joseph Gruber under a Creative Commons license)

Two Victories for the Commons at FCC

March 3, 2015 | By David Morris

On February 28th the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued two decisions.  One concerned net neutrality, the other municipal broadband.  The first garnered by far the most attention, as it should.  Net neutrality affects everyone and the FCC ruling establishes a fundamental new principle for Internet access.

But as another presidential campaign looms, the FCC decision on municipally owned broadband may offer more fertile ground for a vigorous political debate on the role of government and the scale of governance.  

Teenagers flock to the Pumpkin Festival held on Keene's Main Street.  (By Heather Katsoulis under a Creative Commons license)

Kids Around the World Just Want to Hang Out

February 26, 2015

Between 2009 and 2010 two very different cities, Stockholm, Sweden and Keene, New Hampshire, underwent a process of community visioning and master planning. High school students in both places were asked to provide input about their preferences and visions for their cities. High school students are interesting because in many ways they are pre-political. They are clients and consumers of the public services and environmental amenities around them but with little exception they have not experienced the costs associated with their provision.

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.