Get the best of Commons Magazine — FREE!


Indigenous Lenca people organized a human barricade to stop a dam on the Gualcarque river. (Photo courtesy of School of Americas Watch)

Indigenous People In Honduras Block Dam on Sacred River

April 13, 2014

“Screw the company trying to take our river, and the government. If I die, I’m going to die defending life.” So said María Santos Dominguez, a member of the Indigenous Council of the Lenca community of Rio Blanco, Honduras.

How to Revive Low-Income Neighborhoods

April 11, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

Anchor institutions--hospitals, colleges, and other institutions deeply rooted in their communities--are a form of  commons that is viewed as crucial to revitalizing low-income neighborhoods.  Besides being major employers and big customers for local businesses, they have an intrinsic stake in making sure their neighborhoods thrive.  Your local hospital, for instance, is not going to pack up its beds and move to Mexico.

“Why Are We?”

April 11, 2014 | By Camille Gage

Camille Gage: What drew you to become a poet, to follow that path?

Crystal Williams: Well, firstly: when I was young my mother and I went to the library every week. I read voraciously and wasn’t allowed to watch much TV, though I could watch The Electric Company, or Sesame Street, but other than that my life was really about playing with my friends, being with my mom and dad, and reading. I had an uncle who loved poetry. He taught me my first poem and a real love of language.

Sharing Revolution

March 18, 2014

The recent rise of the commons and the sharing economy seems to suggest a growing recognition of the fact that our health, happiness, and security depend greatly on the planet and people around us.

When It Comes to Public Services, Government Knows Best

February 14, 2014 | By David Morris

Minneapolis will soon vote to shift nearly 180 privately owned bus shelters to public ownership following numerous complaints about the lack of maintenance and upkeep.  When it does it will join the burgeoning ranks of cities who have discovered that when it comes to public services government knows best.

When an article about this appeared in the local  Star Tribune newspaper many on-line comments echoed the conventional wisdom circa 2014. “It must be really, really bad if government can do it better.”

A Whole World of Knowledge at Your Fingertips

February 9, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

The origins of the Western higher education system go back to ancient Greece when religious institutions, hospitals, museums and individual scholars such as Plato and Aristotle founded schools where knowledge in many arenas was shared, sometimes with students simply gathering under a certain tree at a certain time.

Never Underestimate the Impact of Neighbors and Food

February 8, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

Jutta Mason, a young mother in Toronto, faced a dilemma. She lived near Dufferin Grove Park a number of years ago but was afraid to go there with her children because it had become a hangout for kids who were viewed as the “local toughs.” Still, she didn’t want to stay home stuck in her house. Mason debated whether to endure boredom or confront fear? She chose to overcome her fear, and in the process made a great difference in her community.

How We Turned the Tide on Climate Change

February 8, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

But by 2020, with the success of the Victory Garden campaign, things fell into a new shape. Up through most of the teens, two futures had contended in popular imagination. Although there were brave evocations of our collective creativity and capability, mostly on the liberal-to-left side of the aisle we saw the end of the world approaching. Think of the we-can-do-it segment tacked onto Al Gore’s 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth: after watching those animations of the coastlines receding, my 14 year-old friends and I sincerely doubted that recycling would save the planet.

"Clear the Table"

February 4, 2014

Enjoy what you’re reading? We have so much more in store for 2014—but we need your help to create a strong financial future for our organization. Please watch the video below and consider making a tax-deductible donation today to advance the commons movement. Let’s own this work together.

How Urban Design Helps or Hinders the Health of the Commons

January 30, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

Centuries before someone first uttered the words “sharing economy,” the steady rise of cities embodied both the principles and promise of that phrase.

The reason more than half the people on earth now live in urban areas is the advantages that come from sharing resources, infrastructure and lives with other people. Essential commons belonging to all of us, ranging from transportation systems to public health safeguards to plentiful social connections, are easier to create and maintain in a populated area.

The Man Who Helped the World to Sing

January 28, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

It’s hard to think of anyone who embodied the spirit and practice of the commons more than musician and activist Pete Seeger, who died yesterday at the age of 94.

He devoted his life to folk music— songs and tunes and lyrics that have been passed along from generation to generation, neighbor to neighbor throughout human history. No one owns the rights to this music; it’s everyone’s priceless cultural inheritance to sing, to hum, to play, to adapt to their own tastes and to share with others.

Can Cities Lead the Way in Reversing Inequality?

January 28, 2014 | By David Morris

Can Cities Lead the Way on Inequality?

Cities Partner with Rural Communities to Protect Water

January 17, 2014 | By Daniel Moss

It sounds like multi-tasking run amok. Tackling a slew of problems at once seems like a crazy idea. But when urban water utilities team up with rural neighbors to protect water sources, there’s an outpouring of positive outcomes. Elusive solutions fall into place. Among a cascade of benefits, you get:

The Power of Sharing Hits the Streets

January 17, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

When bikeshare systems started popping up across North America, I got excited.

I knew bikeshare had improved life in European cities by offering people a convenient way to get around town on short trips. “It’s like a whole new kind of transit system on two wheels,” explained a friend who’d used the system in Paris.

But I never imagined myself renting bicycles from automated stations. They’re for people who don’t own bikes, right? Why would I pay for bikeshare when I have several bikes of my own in the garage?

Republican Principles Depend on What's Best for the Rich

January 17, 2014 | By David Morris

Is Congress inconsistent when they sometimes support using revenue offsets and indexing to inflation and sometimes don’t? Not at all. They’re actually very consistent. When capital comes asking for gifts Republicans act like Santa Claus. When labor is asking they conduct themselves more like Scrooge.

Consider the Republicans’ different approach to the estate tax, the minimum wage, and jobless benefits.

Public Water Systems Can Help the War on Poverty

January 15, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

No army can win a war without water. (Dysentery took more lives in the U.S. Civil War than battle wounds.) That holds equally true for the war on poverty.

Enliven Public Spaces in 5 Easy Steps

January 14, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

1) Maximize flexibility: Successful places are able to be used by the young and old, from day to night, in a variety of ways. Does your space offer things to do and see all day to all users?

2) Have many things to do in the space at once: Similar to the point above, are there a diversity of things to do? If one person wants to sit in the sun, the other in the shade – are they able to? Are there things to eat, see, play?

The National Treasure in Your Neighborhood

January 13, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

How does owning a vacation house at Yosemite sound? Or a beach cottage near the shores of Acadia National Park? Do you dream of hiking the Grand Canyon right outside your front door, or taking a dip in Crater Lake after getting home from work?

The Story of Vincent and Elinor Ostrom

January 10, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

Elinor Ostrom overcame considerable barriers to become the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Economics. Besides the obvious discrimination against women in academia and society at large, she faced the stigma of stuttering as a child and growing up poor with a divorced mother in the low-rent district of glitzy Beverly Hills. Ostrom worked her way through UCLA in three years and then put her husband through Harvard Law School, after which he became a successful entertainment lawyer in Hollywood.

Its Been a Very Bad Month For the Private Sector

January 9, 2014 | By David Morris

The private sector has had a very bad month. Its most widely publicized failure occurred when UPS and FedEx fumbled their Christmas deliveries while the U.S. Postal Service scored a touchdown.