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COMMONS MAGAZINE

Who owns Chicago’s famous lakeshore?

Who owns Chicago’s famous lakeshore?

April 22, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

A proposal to build a children’s museum in Grant Park creates storm of controversy about a place long deemed “a common.”

As early as 1836, farsighted Chicago citizens refused to sell the village’s lakefront to build a shipping canal, even under pressure from the state of Illinois. They deemed the land: “Public Ground—a Common to Remain Forever Open, Clear and Free of Any Buildings or Other Obstruction Whatever.”

Museums Exploiting Public-Domain Artworks

Museums Exploiting Public-Domain Artworks

April 22, 2008 | By David Bollier

The world’s museums are stewards of millions of images that constitute our cultural patrimony. But are museums willing to share the images that are legally in the public domain? Canadian legal scholar Michael Geist, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, notes that many museums are exploiting their control over public-domain images to limit public access to them and make money. The National Gallery of Canada, for example, charges a “permission fee,” over and above any administrative or reproduction fees, to requesters of copies of public-domain artworks.

Earth Day is an occasion to celebrate the revival of city parks

April 22, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

As Earth Day rolls around, people usually think of protecting wild treasures like rainforests, coral reefs, old growth woods, and wetlands. But look at how most people actually celebrate Earth Day—cleaning up a local park or forest preserve. The truth is that urban parks are way that people get in touch with nature.

TISNF (That Is So Not Fair)

TISNF (That Is So Not Fair)

April 16, 2008 | By David Bollier

The wireless commons is more vulnerable than you may think. Wireless carriers like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Alltel are arguing that they have the right to block any text messages whose content they consider unacceptable. Incredible, but true.

cc license by Jessica@flickr from Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessflickr/76267117/

Chaos or Commons?

Chaos or Commons?

April 11, 2008

On the Commons Fellow Chuck Collins delivered this sermon at First Church at Jamaica Plain Unitarian Universalist last month.

cc license by Dave Pearson from Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/davepearson/472207404/sizes/o/in/photostream/

Why the Commons Matters to Me

Why the Commons Matters to Me

April 11, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

Dear Fellow Commoners:

I’m Jay Walljasper, the newest member of the OntheCommons.org editorial team. We’re excited to share all the changes to our website, now filled with more inspiring stories and probing commentary on issues related to the commons. You’ll also find new opportunities to become involved in this emerging global movement, in which people are coming together to rethink how modern society relates to nature, culture, and the future.

Sign of the Times

Sign of the Times

April 11, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

Take a look at the image that appears here. We believe it conjures a wide range of feelings, ideas and actions associated with the commons. Tomales Bay Institute (now known as On the Commons), working with designer Jeff Berg, came up with this symbol, which can designate a wide array of commons work.

Unlike corporate logos, which are fiercely guarded by battalions of lawyers, this mark will not be treated as the private property of just one organization.

Commons Offers a New Lens for Community Issues

Commons Offers a New Lens for Community Issues

April 11, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

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.

Big Loss for Open Documents

Big Loss for Open Documents

April 10, 2008 | By David Bollier

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.

The Good Book

The Good Book

April 8, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

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/

Where All That Stuff Goes

April 8, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

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.

Insurers Abuse Social Security Disability

Insurers Abuse Social Security Disability

April 8, 2008 | By David Bollier

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.

“Who Owns the Commons?” Symposium

“Who Owns the Commons?” Symposium

April 8, 2008 | By David Bollier

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.”

Poland’s Sustainable Farming Traditions Under Fire from EU

Poland’s Sustainable Farming Traditions Under Fire from EU

April 7, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

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.

Open-Source Automobile Design?

Open-Source Automobile Design?

April 2, 2008 | By David Bollier

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?

The Kitchen As a Commons

The Kitchen As a Commons

March 30, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

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

Welcome to the New OntheCommons.org

Welcome to the New OntheCommons.org

March 30, 2008 | By David Bollier

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.

Solutions to Global Warming

Solutions to Global Warming

March 30, 2008

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 for All

Water for All

March 30, 2008 | By Jay Walljasper

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.