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The Slow Unnatural Death of Our Personal Space

January 8, 2014 | By David Morris

The natural tendency of the private sector, when unrestrained, is to strip us of our personal physical and psychic space. The clearest examples may be found in the air travel and broadcasting industries.

Fly the Claustrophobic Skies

When it comes to air travel, private airline companies’ profits depend on maximizing revenue per cubic inch of space inside a plane.

Discovering a Legal Tool to Curb Climate Change

January 7, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

On Mother’s Day, 2011 a legal campaign was launched in fifty states and in Federal court arguing that global warming violated the rights of the plaintiffs — young people and their posterity. The actions were based on an innovative application of an ancient legal principle known in the US as the “public trust doctrine.” They asserted that, under the public trust doctrine, governments serve as trustees of the atmosphere for the true beneficiaries, current and future generations, and that they are violating their most compelling duties by failing to protect it from devastating climate change.

Five Lessons About the Commons

January 6, 2014

Five Lessons

I. Starting from Here

Lesson I, emphasizes the roles of artisanship and science in the design of our communities—including the intimate association of a marriage. The “art and science” of how we associate with each other emerged as Vincent’s core concern—from drafting part of the Alaska constitution to fashioning a marriage with Lin. They always started from a challenging place—what Lin would always describe as a “puzzle.”

II. Diagnosing Reasons for Failures

"Bringing Back Water"

January 5, 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.

A Global Exploration of Economic Possibilities

December 26, 2013 | By Jessica Conrad

The Heinrich Boll Foundation just released a detailed, educational, and inspiring report summarizing the international conference it hosted in Berlin, Germany May 22-24, 2013.

2013: The Year Bike Sharing Came of Age

December 26, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

2013 is the year when the sharing economy—the recent rediscovery of the economic advantages of mutual cooperation—came to public attention.

It was also the year that bike sharing, one of the most tangible symbols of the sharing economy, came of age in America.

New bike sharing systems opened in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Fort Worth, Columbus and Aspen, Colorado, this year while existing systems expanded in Minneapolis, Washington D.C. and other cities.

VIDEO: Commons. Are you in?

December 23, 2013 | By On the Commons Team

With the end of another year in sight, all of us at On the Commons invite you to recognize the gift of our commons, everything we inherit and create together. The commons include parks and public spaces, libraries, the air we breathe, public water systems and art programs, the Internet, and even the spirit of collaboration. These cherished commons, among many others, bring us health and security, inspire our imaginations, give us hope, and more.

Actual World, Possible Future

December 16, 2013

From Director Barbara Allen:

Brewster Kahle

December 16, 2013 | By Jessica Conrad

Have you ever wanted to play an old Apple II game, get instant access to 3 million books, or browse through early iterations of your favorite websites? You can do all of those things and more at Internet Archive, a nonprofit Internet library founded by Brewster Kahle that exists to “change the content of the Internet from ephemera into enduring artifacts of our political and cultural lives.”

Ostrom’s Nobel Prize a Milestone for the Commons Movement

December 16, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

A major roadblock standing in the way of many people’s recognition of the importance of the commons came tumbling down in 2009 when Indiana University professor Elinor Ostrom won the Nobel Prize for economics.

8 Principles for Managing A Commmons

December 16, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

Elinor Ostrom, a political scientist at Indiana University, received the Nobel Prize in 2009 for her research proving the importance of the commons around the world. Her work investigating how communities co-operate to share resources drives to the heart of debates today about resource use, the public sphere and the future of the planet. She is the first woman to be awarded the Nobel in Economics.

View from Africa on Ostrom's Nobel Prize

The View from Africa on Elinor Ostrom

December 16, 2013

Since the 1960s, the predominant policy prescription for ensuring the 
 exploitation of land resources in Africa has been the
 individualisation of land held under custom. This move was largely 
driven by neoclassical economists influenced by Garrett Hardin, who called his
 famous 1968 essay on shared resources “The Tragedy of the Commons”.

The Cultural Commons Lies Hidden in Plain Sight

December 13, 2013

Let’s call it the cultural commons: public space for meaning and beauty that enables us to learn who we are, envision a livable future, and work together to shape it. We are in the midst of a paradigm shift that is bringing our cultural commons to the center of our awareness: art and culture are being given their true value as the crucible wherein civil society is forged.

Walking as a Way of Life

December 8, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

Researchers have discovered a “wonder drug” for many of today’s most common medical problems, says Dr. Bob Sallis, a family practitioner at a Kaiser Permanente clinic in Fontana, California. It’s been proven to help treat or prevent diabetes, depression, breast and colon cancer, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity, anxiety and osteoporosis, Sallis told leaders at the 2013 Walking Summit in Washington, D.C.

“The drug is called walking,” Sallis announced. “Its generic name is physical activity.”

Airline Deregulation: Triumph of Ideology Over Evidence

December 7, 2013 | By David Morris

In November, in what history may judge the ultimate triumph of ideology over evidence, the U.S. Department of Justice dropped its lawsuit against the merger of American Airlines and United Airways.

Why Mayors Should Rule the World

December 3, 2013 | By Jessica Conrad

“Democracy is in trouble, no question about that,” says political theorist Benjamin Barber in the opening remarks of his TED talk earlier this year. We live in a world where immigration, terrorism, climate change, HIV, war, and markets are now cross-border problems. Yet when we look to democracy and politics for solutions, we are faced with “archaic and increasingly dysfunctional political institutions” designed for a 17th century world.


December 2, 2013

A New Way to Make Housing Affordable for Nonprofit Workers

December 2, 2013 | By Jessica Conrad

Brewster Kahle, founder of Alexa and the Internet Archive, just launched a radical new housing experiment that could substantially decrease housing costs for nonprofit workers in the San Francisco Bay Area and, hopefully, beyond. By placing a covenant, or legal clause, on a recently purchased apartment building in the Richmond district of San Francisco, Kahle will be able to offer units to the staff of Internet Archive and other partner nonprofits at cost.

What’s Good for Bill Gates Turns Out To Be Bad For Public Schools

November 29, 2013 | By David Morris

Schools have a lot to learn from business about how to improve performance, declared Bill Gates in an Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal in 2011. He pointed to his own company as a worthy model for public schools.

“At Microsoft, we believed in giving our employees the best chance to succeed, and then we insisted on success. We measured excellence, rewarded those who achieved it and were candid with those who did not.”

Building the Good Society

November 25, 2013 | By Jay Walljasper

*Universal health care: This would include natural health treatments and psychological therapies, both of which save money over the long haul by preventing serious medical conditions.

*A fair electoral system: How about a voting system in which the guy who gets the most votes wins? Even better would be proportional representation (common outside the English-speaking world), which allows third and fourth parties to bring fresh ideas into the political debate without becoming spoilers.