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)
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Photo by Beth Cortez-Neavel under a Creative Commons license.
New York makes it hard for citizens to influence policy. They cannot put an issue on the state ballot no matter how many signatures they gather. And although the state Constitution has a home rule provision, cities and counties lack authority to undertake some of the most basic initiatives. Even mighty New York City, with over 8 million people, must go hat in hand to Albany to request permission to reduce city speed limits, install red light cameras, open their courts at night, or raise taxes other than those imposed on property.
People have walked for justice and economic opportunity throughout American history.
Slaves seeking freedom hiked hundreds of miles on the Underground Railroad, guided by heroes like Harriet Tubman. Workers wanting a better life for their families walked on picket lines and at protests, rallied by advocates like Cesar Chavez. People demanding civil rights marched in Selma, Alabama and the National Mall in Washington, led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
By 顔なし.under a Creative Commons license.
In Texas liberty trumps democracy. The Texas Supreme Court itself says so. In a recent decision, three of the five Justice majority bluntly declared. “(O)ur federal and state charters are not, contrary to popular belief, about ‘democracy’.” They are about “liberty’s primacy”.
Everywhere you turn, people are talking about--- and attempting cross off items from---bucket lists. Only a few people are talking about “generativity”--a term introduced by psychologist Erik Erikson, who described it as an active concern for the next generation and a need to leave something of value for people who will live on after we die. But I feel there is a strong connection between the two.
Find your natural rhythm
Figure out the best times to walk for your schedule. Maybe it’s first thing in the morning. Or with your kids on the way to school. After lunch. Taking the dog out. After dinner. Before bedtime. With friends or family on the weekends.
Seize the opportunity whenever you can
Photo by Bellingham Rolling Rebellion Advocates for Net Neutrality under a Creative Commons license
In the last 20 years the Supreme Court has created a parallel judicial system to resolve disputes involving corporations that is effectively run by the very corporations whose behavior is under investigation.
Here is how that judicial coup against an independent judiciary occurred.
A three-acre wasteland on the South Side of Chicago is now an urban oasis. (Photo courtesy of Eden Place)
Serious issues threaten the health and beauty of much of what we call “the commons.” We all know this, and at times can feel overwhelmed by what to do about it.
The “three R's” (reduce, reuse, recycle) help us take action to protect the environment, and this has made a dent in the damage we’ve done to our environment. Practices related to the three R’s have reduced the amount of waste thrown away and have contributed to the conservation of natural resources.
More than 1600 years ago, in the waning days of the Roman Empire, Augustine Aurelius, Bishop of Hippo declared himself a sex addict. His classical 13 book treatise Confessions of St. Augustine, one of the foundational texts of Catholicism was written “to remind myself of my past foulnesses and carnal corruptions”. Augustine was the first theologian to equate sex with sin.
The law has been stolen from everyday people making decisions about how we will live together in our communities and on this land. My Ph.D-holding husband couldn’t understand his own father’s will. Most people defer to the lawyer in the room to tell them what the law is all about. Few people will dare step foot in a courtroom or legal proceeding without a lawyer attached to their hip.