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(By Steve Rhodes under a CC license)

Our Climate is Everyone's Property

October 20, 2014

Can an ancient legal principle with roots in Roman law serve as a tool for the climate protection movement?

Gustavo Esteva voices provocative views on human rights, economic development and flush toilets 

Mexico's Maverick Commoner

October 20, 2014

I recently went to Dublin to facilitate a "Thinkery" about the Commons.  The event was organized with  my Irish co-conspirators, Orla O’Donovan and Mary McDermott, to coincide with the launch of a special issue of the Community Development Journal devoted to the commons.  The participants were engaged and the discussions lively.

Copenhagen bikers have their own lane raised from the street. (By Spacing magazine under a CC license.)

Going Dutch and Danish

October 13, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

Imagine a major city where 35 percent of all traffic is people on bikes. Or think even bigger--an entire nation where 27 percent of all trips are pedal-powered. 

This is not some Utopian vision of the commons dreamed up by a 24-year-old after too many handcrafted beers. These are real places located in modern societies with high levels of car ownership. Places not so different from the US named Copenhagen and the Netherlands.

Big Differences in Catalonia and Scotland on Independence

October 10, 2014 | By David Morris

Scotland and Catalonia are brothers in arms. Independence movement leaders in the two places communicate regularly.  On September 18, when Scotland voted on uncoupling from the United Kingdom, Catalans were on hand.  When Catalonia votes on independence, a vote originally scheduled for November 9th but delayed pending a court decision, Scots will certainly be there.

An Orchard Grows in Boston

October 8, 2014

Egleston Square is a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, straddling the borders of Roxbury and Jamaica Plain (JP) in the city of Boston. High condo prices and even higher rents are pushing long-term residents, to move elsewhere. This churning of the real estate market, to be expected in a profit-maximizing system, dissolves community and acerbates race and class divides. It is now common to hear of talk of “Two JPs”-– one prosperous, highly educated, professional and largely White, and another struggling, working class, mainly immigrant and Hispanic.

(By Dale Calder under a Creative Commons license.)

Linux for Lettuce

October 1, 2014

From a distance, Jim Myers looks like an ordinary farmer. Most autumn mornings, he stands thigh-deep in a field of wet broccoli, beheading each plant with a single, sure swipe of his harvest knife. But under his waders are office clothes, and on his wrist is an oversized digital watch with a push-button calculator on its face. As his hand cuts, his eyes record data: stalk length and floret shape, the purple hue of perfect heads and the silver specks that foretell rot. At day’s end his broccoli goes to the food bank or the compost bin—it doesn’t really matter.

"Women Are Saying Enough Is Enough"

September 30, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

Carolyn Raffensperger, an environmental lawyer and public health advocate, is one of the America’s leading proponents of the Precautionary Principle. This common sense idea states that when an action is suspected of causing harm to people or the environment, the burden of proof is to demonstrate the action is not harmful before moving forward.  The European Union has adopted the Precautionary Principle as a statutory requirement in some areas of law.

(By James Jordan under a CC license.)

Happy Commons Day!

September 29, 2014

Here's what I learned about the commons during my economics education at the University of Montana (BA, Economics 2004):

Common-pool resource [n]: a type of good consisting of a natural or human-made resource system, whose size or characteristics makes it costly, but not impossible, to exclude potential beneficiaries from obtaining benefits from its use. Examples of common-pool resources include irrigation systems, fishing grounds, pastures and forests.

Even with heavy traffic traffic, many New York streets accomodate pedestrians. (By Ed Yourdon under a CC license.)

These Streets Are Made for Walking

September 23, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

More than 4500 pedestrians (see earlier Commons magazine story) are killed by motor vehicles every year on the streets of America.  This is not an inevitable fact of modern life.  These deaths are preventable, as shown by the dramatic decline of pedestrian  fatalities (as well as bicyclists and motorists) in Sweden after they adopted the

Welcome to the New OnTheCommons.org

September 17, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

Welcome to the new OnTheCommons.org, which we’ve redesigned to better inform, inspire and equip you to make a difference in your community and the world.  You’ll see no startling changes, just improvements to make our site easier to use and enjoy.


Introducing Commons Magazine

Scots rally for independence. (By Martainn MacDhomhnaill under a Creative Commons license)

Scotland Makes the Case that Small is Beautiful

September 12, 2014 | By David Morris

Since 1945 the number of nations has soared from about 60 to more than 180.  The first wave of new sovereign states came with the decolonization movement of the 1960s and 1970s; the second in the early 1990s with the break-up of the Soviet Union.  If Scotland votes for independence it may ignite a third wave.  Dozens of would-be nations are waiting in the wings:  Wales, Catalonia (Spain), Flanders (Belgium), Brittany (France), the list is long.

(By Dylan Passmore under a CC license)

Fixing the Tragedy No One Wants to Think About

September 11, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

More than 4500 pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles every year on the streets of America--more than those who died in the horror of 9/11. 

The Vision to Fix a Tragedy No One Wants to Think About

September 11, 2014

More than 4500 pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles every year on the streets of America--more than those who died in the horror of 9/11. 

The Vision to Fix a Tragedy No One Wants to Think About

September 11, 2014

More than 4500 pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles every year on the streets of America--more than those who died in the horror of 9/11. 

The Vision to Fix a Tragedy No One Wants to Think About

September 11, 2014

More than 4500 pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles every year on the streets of America--more than those who died in the horror of 9/11. 

A Southern town that broadens government role in promoting the common good.  (Photo by J. Stephen Conn under a CC license)

The Little City That Could

September 11, 2014 | By David Morris

When two politicians debate the role of government, it almost always is a Democrat vs. Republican.  Which is why it was so refreshing and instructive to read of the debate taking place among Republicans in a small city in southeastern Kentucky.

What If We Put the Future First?

September 9, 2014 | By On the Commons Team

What if we put the future first?

What if we prioritized the well being of everyone’s kids and grandkids ahead of today’s myopic economic and political interests? What if we honored everyone’s right to sustainably use the commons?

These are questions at the heart of the groundbreaking Future First 2014 Women’s Congress held November 7-9 in Minneapolis: to call on the untapped power of women to halt the degradation of our planet.

 Annette Bernhardt under a CC license

People's Climate Justice Movement Tackles Threats Facing Us

September 3, 2014

A  90-year old water main ruptured in Los Angeles this summer, wasting ten million gallons of water in the midst of a record drought.

Glendale, California is one of 2000 US cities with municipal power utilities.  (Photo by Scott Lowe under a CC license.)

Missing the Whole Story on Public Radio

September 2, 2014 | By David Morris

Public radio’s David Brancaccio is a solid reporter.  Perhaps the cognitive dissonance of talking about public ownership on a business program called Marketplace caused him to go astray.  Nevertheless a few days ago he did his listeners a disservice when commenting on the city of Somerset, Kentucky’s new venture: Selling gasoline directly to city residents.  

Somerset’s entrepreneurialism prompted him to explore other municipal enterprises,   “I looked around for some precedents and they are interesting.”

Minnesota Governor Floyd Olson was elected on a platform advocating that resources be "operated democratically for the benefit of all the people".

A Great Old Idea for the New Economy

August 13, 2014

I recently attended Common Bound, a Boston conference sponsored by the New Economy Coalition, a network of organizations committed to a more just and sustainable economy.  The gathering included progressive luminaries and a wide range of thoughtful presentations.  It was thankfully diverse, in gender, racial background and age.  Indeed, most of the staff of the New Economy Coalition is under thirty, a sign that Millennials have gone beyond Occupy in seeking practical alternatives to our present failed economic order.  But what seemed missing at