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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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 on Inequality?
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:
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.