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"Women Are Saying Enough Is Enough"

September 30, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

Carolyn Raffensperger, an environmental lawyer and public health advocate, is one of the America’s leading proponents of the Precautionary Principle. This common sense idea states that when an action is suspected of causing harm to people or the environment, the burden of proof is to demonstrate the action is not harmful before moving forward.  The European Union has adopted the Precautionary Principle as a statutory requirement in some areas of law.

(By James Jordan under a CC license.)

Happy Commons Day!

September 29, 2014

Here's what I learned about the commons during my economics education at the University of Montana (BA, Economics 2004):

Common-pool resource [n]: a type of good consisting of a natural or human-made resource system, whose size or characteristics makes it costly, but not impossible, to exclude potential beneficiaries from obtaining benefits from its use. Examples of common-pool resources include irrigation systems, fishing grounds, pastures and forests.

Even with heavy traffic traffic, many New York streets accomodate pedestrians. (By Ed Yourdon under a CC license.)

These Streets Are Made for Walking

September 23, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

More than 4500 pedestrians (see earlier Commons magazine story) are killed by motor vehicles every year on the streets of America.  This is not an inevitable fact of modern life.  These deaths are preventable, as shown by the dramatic decline of pedestrian  fatalities (as well as bicyclists and motorists) in Sweden after they adopted the

Welcome to the New OnTheCommons.org

September 17, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

Welcome to the new OnTheCommons.org, which we’ve redesigned to better inform, inspire and equip you to make a difference in your community and the world.  You’ll see no startling changes, just improvements to make our site easier to use and enjoy.


Introducing Commons Magazine

Scots rally for independence. (By Martainn MacDhomhnaill under a Creative Commons license)

Scotland Makes the Case that Small is Beautiful

September 12, 2014 | By David Morris

Since 1945 the number of nations has soared from about 60 to more than 180.  The first wave of new sovereign states came with the decolonization movement of the 1960s and 1970s; the second in the early 1990s with the break-up of the Soviet Union.  If Scotland votes for independence it may ignite a third wave.  Dozens of would-be nations are waiting in the wings:  Wales, Catalonia (Spain), Flanders (Belgium), Brittany (France), the list is long.

(By Dylan Passmore under a CC license)

Fixing the Tragedy No One Wants to Think About

September 11, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

More than 4500 pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles every year on the streets of America--more than those who died in the horror of 9/11. 

The Vision to Fix a Tragedy No One Wants to Think About

September 11, 2014

More than 4500 pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles every year on the streets of America--more than those who died in the horror of 9/11. 

The Vision to Fix a Tragedy No One Wants to Think About

September 11, 2014

More than 4500 pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles every year on the streets of America--more than those who died in the horror of 9/11. 

The Vision to Fix a Tragedy No One Wants to Think About

September 11, 2014

More than 4500 pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles every year on the streets of America--more than those who died in the horror of 9/11. 

A Southern town that broadens government role in promoting the common good.  (Photo by J. Stephen Conn under a CC license)

The Little City That Could

September 11, 2014 | By David Morris

When two politicians debate the role of government, it almost always is a Democrat vs. Republican.  Which is why it was so refreshing and instructive to read of the debate taking place among Republicans in a small city in southeastern Kentucky.

What If We Put the Future First?

September 9, 2014 | By On the Commons Team

What if we put the future first?

What if we prioritized the well being of everyone’s kids and grandkids ahead of today’s myopic economic and political interests? What if we honored everyone’s right to sustainably use the commons?

These are questions at the heart of the groundbreaking Future First 2014 Women’s Congress held November 7-9 in Minneapolis: to call on the untapped power of women to halt the degradation of our planet.

 Annette Bernhardt under a CC license

People's Climate Justice Movement Tackles Threats Facing Us

September 3, 2014

A  90-year old water main ruptured in Los Angeles this summer, wasting ten million gallons of water in the midst of a record drought.

Glendale, California is one of 2000 US cities with municipal power utilities.  (Photo by Scott Lowe under a CC license.)

Missing the Whole Story on Public Radio

September 2, 2014 | By David Morris

Public radio’s David Brancaccio is a solid reporter.  Perhaps the cognitive dissonance of talking about public ownership on a business program called Marketplace caused him to go astray.  Nevertheless a few days ago he did his listeners a disservice when commenting on the city of Somerset, Kentucky’s new venture: Selling gasoline directly to city residents.  

Somerset’s entrepreneurialism prompted him to explore other municipal enterprises,   “I looked around for some precedents and they are interesting.”

Minnesota Governor Floyd Olson was elected on a platform advocating that resources be "operated democratically for the benefit of all the people".

A Great Old Idea for the New Economy

August 13, 2014

I recently attended Common Bound, a Boston conference sponsored by the New Economy Coalition, a network of organizations committed to a more just and sustainable economy.  The gathering included progressive luminaries and a wide range of thoughtful presentations.  It was thankfully diverse, in gender, racial background and age.  Indeed, most of the staff of the New Economy Coalition is under thirty, a sign that Millennials have gone beyond Occupy in seeking practical alternatives to our present failed economic order.  But what seemed missing at

(By Ijirawu Jimbo under a CC license)

Care of of the Commons. Care of the Soul

August 11, 2014

Human decisions and human activities are imposing enormous costs on the life-support systems of planet Earth.  Left unchecked, the results will be catastrophic for all living things, including humans.  Some of the damage to life and the systems that support life is irreversible. Fortunately, the message is out there to “save the environment.” 

Animalia Terrestria

July 30, 2014

Animalia Terrestria

I set my feet
          in the slow-moving, foliate river
and sometimes they are rich with brown oily fur
and sometimes their lime webs are sails that let in the dim sun
and sometimes they shine pebbled like black leather,
          algae tangling my claws in curtained clouds
and sometimes
my terrible strong-tailed body drags behind

Neighborhood post offices would be replaced by a counter in a big box store with a barely trained clerk. (Photo by Bruce Tuten under a Creative Commons license.)

Latest Plan to Privatize Post Office Hits Unexpected Obstacle

July 30, 2014 | By David Morris

The United States Postal Service (USPS) management just ran into a possible game-changing obstacle to its shameful pursuit of a fully privatized post office:  labor solidarity. 

Occupiers of Rome's Teatro Valle want to move Italy's cultural policies in the direction of the commons.

Commoners Continue to Occupy Rome’s Teatro Valle

July 28, 2014 | By David Bollier

The three-year occupation of Teatro Valle in Rome is now legendary: a spontaneous response to the failures of conventional government in supporting a venerated public theater, and the conversion of the theater into a commons by countless ordinary citizens. Now the mayor of Rome is threatening to end the occupation, evict the commoners, and privatize the management of the facility.

Davis, California, leads the nation in biking with its network of bike lanes, off-road bike trails and an increasing number of protected bike lanes. Twenty-two percent of all trips around town are by bike. (Photo by Thanh Ha Dang under a Creative Commons license.) 

One Surprising Reason America Lags Behind the World on Bikes

July 27, 2014

America lags behind most of the rest of the world when it comes to biking.  Even Canadians were found to bike three times more than Americans in a 2006 study

The dominance of the automobile in American life--especially the influence of auto interests in American business and politics--is no doubt the overwhelming reason. But a surprising contributing factor has been the resistance to special facilities to make biking safer by a small but dedicated band of bicyclists themselves.

Gas taxes don't cover the cost of building and repairing highways, not to mention the environmental pricetag. (Photo from flickr.com under a Creative Commons license.)

Republicans Wreck Their Own Principles on Highways

July 25, 2014 | By David Morris

It’s almost certain that Congressional Republicans will soon vote overwhelmingly to violate one of their most cherished guiding principles: A service should be paid for by those who use the service. If we don’t fully pay for services, Republicans usually insist, markets can’t work effectively.  This undervalues and overuses public services, resulting in wasteful overspending.