The commons is an evocative phrase, but not understood the same way by everyone who hears it. Some think of grazing land, as in the enclosure of the commons in pre-industrial England. Others think of open spaces, like the Boston Common. Or of the many other things described these days as commons: shopping centers, university lounges, housing developments etc.
Microsoft has prevailed in its campaign to get an international technical body to accept its so-called open document standard, Office Open XML, as the international standard. The decision has been bitterly opposed by open-source advocates and consumer groups for strengthening Microsoft’s dominance over computer desktop software and impeding consumer choice, innovation and competition.
For many people, it seems only natural to locate the commons somewhere on the left side of the political spectrum. After all, it’s an idea that challenges right wing declarations that private property and the market are the only adequate method of organizing human endeavor.
cc licensed by jennd from Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/jennd/346048109/
Plastic pollution is an even bigger problem than you think it is. In the Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and California, lies the Pacific Trash Vortex—a Texas-sized accumulation of floating plastic rubbish. This is a sad symbol of what’s wrong with our out-of-control addiction to plastic, reports the Canadian publication This Magazine.
In an attempt to avoid paying disability claims, private insurers are increasingly requiring policyholders to file disability claims with the Social Security system first, even when they don’t qualify for benefits. The practice is clogging the Social Security bureaucracy with a flood of dubious claims that is not only costing taxpayers more, it is making it harder for claimants who are truly disabled from getting Social Security benefits.
For anyone in Alaska, or wanting to visit Alaska in June, check out the upcoming symposium, Gifts of Nature, Gifts of Culture: Who Owns the Commons?]
which the Island Institute of Sitka, Alaska, will host on June 18-22, 2008.
The symposium will explore “the remarkable features of the commons, the forces that work against the concept and the innovative approaches being taken by individuals, groups and communities to ensure that these shared assets are held as our common wealth for generations to come.”
Breakthroughs in sustainable agriculture often come from studying peasant farming traditions, which represent an enduring commons of land stewardship. That’s the mission of Jadwiga Lopata, winner of the prestigious Goldman Prize for the environment for efforts to protect small farmers and their sustainable practices in her native Poland.
It’s probably too early to know if open-source software design principles can translate to hardware–in particular, automobiles–but it is a sign of the cultural power of that ideal that two different teams of designers have arisen to attempt to build “open source automobiles.” Anyone is invited to contribute ideas and talent, and the process requires open sharing and collaboration at all stages of design and construction. The big question is, will it work? Can open-source principles work in a radically different, physical medium?
We are lucky to live in a golden age of cuisine. Never have we enjoyed so many choices of different foods from diverse cooking traditions than today.
CC Licensed http://openphoto.net/volumes/ska/20060125/opl_GB-Salat.jpg
In our mission to advance the commons, we at OntheCommons.org have embarked upon a number of major changes that we are thrilled to share with you. You’re looking at the most visible change, our new online home! Re-conceptualizing and revamping the website has been a lengthy process, and we are excited about the new look and navigation of the site.
Excerpted from the new book: Climate Solutions: A Citizens Guide
In 2006, NASA’s top climate scientist warned that we have at most a decade to turn the tide on global warming. After that, James Hansen said, all bets are off. Temperature rises of 3 to 7 degrees Farenheit will “produce a different planet.”
If Hansen is right—and most scientists think he is—then every year lost is a year closer to the precipice. In more positive terms, we have one last chance—but only one chance—to save the planet.
Water is the focus of a wide-ranging international collaboration at Blue Mountain Center in upstate New York May 8-11, organized by On the Commons co-founder Harriet Barlow. This event launches Water for All—an effort tapping the ideas of activists, researchers and scholars from many sectors for exchanging ideas about how to better manage this priceless resource.
Fifteen years ago, many people had given up on the Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis — an economically struggling Native American/African-American/white neighborhood with drug problems. What many people didn’t see then was the difference that could be made by the Hope Community, a non-profit organization working to provide affordable housing and a sense of common possibility.
Hope Community Mural Project: L to R, Ben Wooley, Rick Cavey, Jordan Hamilton, Chaka Mkali (staff) and Elijah Benson. Photo by Scott Streble.
In 1971, one of the great experiments in congressional reform began when Ralph Nader enlisted more than 800 college students to spend their summer vacation doing extensive research profiles of every member of Congress (484) and six key Congressional committees. It was a monstrously complicated project of citizen oversight of Congress that made the institutional life of Congress a major national issue. The project generated some 21,000 pages of books and reports in the process of exposing Congress as a world of “protocol, alcohol and Geritol.”
The fight against bottled water as an expensive, ecologically harmful alternative to tap water is being advanced by a special campaign, Think Outside the Bottle, which is endorsed by several dozen of the leading organizations fighting bottled water.
Time magazine did not come right out and say the commons is a key idea influencing our future in its March 24 cover on “10 ideas that are changing the world.”
But it came close.
Leading off the cover story in the number one slot was economist Jeffrey Sachs’ essay on Common Wealth, where he made a case for embracing sustainable development and eradicating global poverty in language that evoked the commons, even though he did not use the word.
If there is one area of American life that could benefit from greater transparency and participation, it is the health care system. Now comes a terrific new report that describes in rigorous detail the many ways in which the open sharing of information could improve the quality of health care for everyone. Harnessing Openness to Transform American Health Care (pdf file) is a new report by the Committee on Economic Development, the business research group, released in January 2008.
For years, thousands of teachers and students around the world have been applying the principles of free software, free culture and Web 2.0 to education.
In the recently completed FCC auctions of wireless airwaves, enough money was bid for the much-coveted “C” block of spectrum that it will have to be offered for us on an “open access” basis. This represents a major development in assuring that wireless access to the Internet. The network will be wide open for competition and consumers will be able to plug whatever devices they want into the network.