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COMMONS MAGAZINE

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.    

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.