There is a simmering debate in certain tech circles that is starting to come to a boil. It concerns the significance of Web 2.0 to the political economy. Web 2.0, refers to websites like Wikipedia, MySpace, Facebook, among thousands of others, where people can self-organize themselves into communities and share stuff for free, without the blessings of a marketplace.
The latest U.S. News & World Report features a two-page interview with On the Commons fellow Peter Barnes (“A Climate Change Proposal with Cash”). http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/national/2008/06/02/a-climate-change-proposal-with-cash.html?PageNr=1
One of the uncounted “externalities” of industrial-style agriculture is an inefficient overuse of chemical fertilizers. Some 85-90 percent of the nitrogen used in fertilizers is washed away into the environment, much of it ending up in the ocean. There, the nitrogen depletes oxygen in water, killing fish, shrimp, claims and other marine life. The “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, between Louisiana and Texas, may be the largest, most famous casualty of big agribusiness practices, but there are hundreds of other dead zones in coastal waters around the world.
Critics in Wyoming complain that the state Game and Fish Department is maintaining feedgrounds for wild elk even though they help incubate and spread “chronic wasting disease” among elk. Cattle-ranchers like the feedgrounds because they allow herds of cattle to forage on public lands instead. But now that an epidemic of “chronic wasting disease” – a variant of “mad cow disease” – is spreading among elk, hunters and environmentalists charge that the feedgrounds are spreading the disease.
They save us money, boost community connections, and celebrate the commons.
Public water fountains, which have been disappearing from the streets of our cities for many decades, are an excellent example of what the commons means.
Instead of paying a buck for a polluting plastic bottle of water, we can drink for free from a resource that belongs to us all—and do it in a public setting that helps instill a sense of community. Traditionally fountains have been the meeting place for villages and neighborhoods.
The emerging commons movement reminds many people of environmentalism in its early days. In both cases, a familiar set of concerns is united into one broad cause under a new name.
Environmentalism addressed issues as varied as smog, roadside trash and wildlife conservation together in one movement to save the planet. The commons too stretches across many fields that people once considered separate: public spaces, internet democracy, climate change, economic justice.
One of the most ambitious, public-spirited tech projects of recent years, the One Laptop Per Child project attracted a great deal of enthusiasm over the past several years for its mission to bring millions of cheap and sturdy laptops to kids in developing nations. Already, some 600,000 laptops have been sold to the governments of Peru, Uruguay, Mexico, and other poorer nations. A key part of the project has been its exclusive reliance on open-source software.
I am struck by the excessive, near Pollyannaish optimism of mainstream economics in its assumptions about human reason and, in an odd way, the peaceable nature of economic order. Our discipline tends to gloss over the central role of power and violence in the creation of wealth, the distribution of opportunity and the fact that suffering and well-being are tightly connected. This paper, reflecting the horror and obscenities of New Orleans’ agony, keeps the blood-stained nature of economic life firmly in mind.
The national parks are suffering from huge budget shortfalls and maintenance backlogs, so it is good news to hear about the National Parks Centennial Initiative . This project aims to raise $100 million per year in government funding for ten years so long as the money is matched by private donors. That would generate $2 billion for improving visitors’ facilities, restoring hiking trails, saving the habitat of endangered species, and in other ways preserving our national parks.
Can works of art help us see the world anew and help us glimpse the ways in which human beings are truly connected to each other and to nature? Can they help us slip the shackles of old habits of thought, and help us develop more integrated forms of feeling and thinking?
Tevereterno, multidisciplinary art project, Rome Italy, by Kristin Jones, photo by Mimmo Capone
A fascinating partnership between the Library of Congress and Flickr has recently begun. In a pilot project started in January, the Library has placed 3,115 archival photos on Flickr, the photo-sharing website, and invited users to tag them and so make them more accessible. The Flickr Commons project as it is called, is also asking Flickr’s 23 million members to review the photos for any errors in labeling or identification.
Casino profits fuel new push to reclaim stolen tribal commons.
White Americans’ lust for money cost Native Americans their land in the 19th Century, as pioneers hungry to make their fortunes out West continually pressured the federal government to open up Indian territory for settlement through illegal occupation and unfair treaties.
State To Regulate Bulk Withdrawals That May Hurt Local Ecosystems.
In recent years, manufacturers, mining companies and bottlers in Vermont have been draining so much water from beneath the surface of the state that the state legislature has finally decided to regulate bulk water withdrawals – defined as more than 57,6000 gallons per day. Republican Governor Jim Douglas plans to sign the bill.
Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd’s words of apology to his country’s Aboriginal people will surely make the history books one day—they represent one of the few times a leader has apologized for his government’s mistreatment of indigenous groups and destruction of their commons traditions.
Thankfully, the argument over the “if” of global warming is over, and new debates are springing up over the “how” of fixing the problem.
The online environmental journal Grist is running a three-part series looking at two proposals that offer practical but ambitious ways to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in the U.S.
On a Sunday night in March, more than 200 people huddled together in a two-century-old stone church in Boston to hear Canadian activist Maude Barlow speak about the global water crisis.
“Water is a commons,” Barlow said. “We must reclaim this commons from those who would treat it as a commodity.”
If we are to survive our environmental dangers, our border disputes, our resource shortages, et cetera, ad infitum, we will have to learn to talk to each other, and especially those people with whom we disagree.
The upcoming National Coalition for Deliberation and Dialogue Conference will be held Oct. 3-5, in Austin, Texas.
For more info about the conference, to register, or to apply to present a session, visit www.thataway.org/events