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Vong Lee wears two hats at the same time as a Hip Hop artist and community organizer working with an inner city neighborhood in St. Paul.

A New Twist in Making a Better World

June 12, 2014

Here’s a fresh idea to stir some strategic creativity into the important yet sometimes daunting and draining work of making the world a better place-- artist organizers. Just like it sounds, an artist organizer unites the imagination and inspiration needed to conjure art with the vision and dedication to social empowerment that characterize successful organizing campaigns.

Detroit's recovery will lose ground if thousands of people are run out of their homes after the city shuts off the water.(Photo by S.J. Carey under a Creative Commons license)

International Human Rights Violations in Detroit

June 11, 2014 | By Maude Barlow

I recently visited Detroit, Michigan and am shocked and deeply disturbed at what I witnessed. I went as part of the Great Lakes Forever project where a number of communities and organizations around the basin are calling for citizens to come together to protect the Great Lakes as a Lived Commons, a Public Trust and a Protected Bioregion.

Professional Porch Sitters Union Local 1339 in Louisville, Kentucky stands up for a greener world. (Photo by Step It Up under a Creative Commons license.)

The Positive Power of Taking It Easy

June 8, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

"I arise in the morning between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world,” wrote the essayist E.B. White, “This makes it hard to plan the day.”

Ah, that’s the dilemma. You want to strengthen the sense of community and the commons where you live. It’s a pretty nice place, but it would be even better if you could fix up the park, improve the schools, enliven the business district, create better paying jobs or slow the traffic.

(Photo by Mlhradio under a Creative Commons license.)

Parks are Silent Victims of Our Economic & Political Ills

June 4, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

These are troubling times for anyone who cares about parks.

During the high-flying economy that crashed in 2008, private facilities—from water parks to health clubs—were touted as the best way to meet our leisure and fitness needs. But after enduring six years of economic sputtering, folks with less money in their pockets and more worries on their minds appreciate low- or no-cost recreation centers, sports programs, nature trails, public gardens, picnic grounds and swimming pools.

A logging camp in British Columbia. (Photo by Dru! under a Creative Commons license.)

Commons Way of Life vs. Market Way of Life

May 28, 2014

Core Question:

Market: What can be bought and sold?

Commons: What do we need to live?

Idea of the Individual:

Market: Humans maximize benefits for themselves

Commons: Humans are primarily cooperative social beings

Social Practice:

Market: Competition predominates; we prevail at the expense of others

Commons: Cooperation predominates; commoning connects us with others

Power Relations:

(Photo by Mkorsakov under a Creative Commons license.)

To Stop Climate Change, Start Calling It By a Different Name

May 19, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

It looks like climate deniers are finally back on the defensive.

To ensure safe drinking water for all, Arturo Quevedo vigilantly protects local watersheds for the municipal water utility in Loja, Ecuador. (Photo by Daniel Moss)

Clean Water Warrior

May 19, 2014 | By Daniel Moss

Arturo Quevedo, the engineer responsible for the watershed protection program for Loja, Ecuador’s municipal water agency, has a kind demeanor. His slightly crooked front teeth are prominent beneath his moustache as he waxes ebullient about clean water percolating through forested slopes, coursing through pipes, and hydrating Loja’s children. But don’t let the gentle, nature-lover exterior fool you. As tender as he is with the landscape, he is equally fierce in sniffing out water-polluting scum.

Manarola, one of five car-free Cinque Terre towns linked by trails and trains. (Photo by Kevin Botto under a Creative Commons license.)

Commons, Italian-Style

May 19, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

I’m back from Cinque Terre--a string of five hillside towns on Italy’s Western seacoast where you feel like you’re vacationing in the 17th century but still enjoy modern wonders such as trains and cameras. Virtually unknown to US tourists thirty years ago, it is now a destination sensation complete with its own Rick Steves and Lonely Planet travel guides.

A New Generation of Great Public Spaces in Places You'd Least Expect

May 15, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

The last place in the world you might think of looking for inspiration on spirited community togtherness is Detroit, a city still suffering from racial divisions and stark economic disinvestment.

Lelalnd Maschmeyer is a creative director in New York City and author of The Triumph of the Commons.

You No Longer Have to Own Everything You Use

May 14, 2014 | By Jessica Conrad

Most people don’t have time to sit around and contemplate the commons, says Leland Maschmeyer—an award-winning creative director and author of The Triumph of the Commons—because they’re busy with the “practical and pressing” stuff of life Can we fault them? No, of course not. The commons as a worldview and set of practices can appear fairly abstract and quickly turn “interest into disinterest ”

(Photo by College360 under a Creative Commons license)

Commons 101

May 7, 2014

The books on this list may not be easily acquired just because book stores are closing, libraries face budget cut-backs, and schools supplant the page with the screen, or the book with the computer. But if you’re reading this you already know that knowledge, like a place to meet, can be obtained with patience, resourcefulness, and working with others. I have listed the books in rough order of difficulty.

Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten (New York: Ballantine Books, 1983)

 Free Press Pics under a CC license

How To Save Equal Access on the Internet

May 4, 2014 | By David Morris

With the announcement by the FCC that cable and telephone companies will be allowed to prioritize access to their customers, only one option remains that can guarantee an open internet: owning the means of distribution.

Thankfully an agency exists for this. Local government. Owning the means of distribution is a traditional function of local government. We call our roads and bridges and water and sewer pipe networks public infrastructure for a reason.

A walk to the local bagel shop. (Photo by Shawn Econo under a Creative Commons license)

How to Get the World Back on Its Feet

April 22, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

What if there was a way to reduce the risk of many major diseases at the same time as helping improve your overall health, decreasing your weight and boosting your energy? And what if this treatment was simple to do and took only a few minutes each week?

Wait, it gets even better! What if this could be accomplished with no special equipment or training and it would cost absolutely nothing. You could do it any time and place you want--in fact, the vast majority of us have been doing it since the age of two.

Students at Keene State College. (Photo by Celt.Keene under a Creative Commons license.)

Commons Comes to Town

April 19, 2014

Traveling to New Hampshire last week to talk at Keene State College, I had no idea what to expect. Although I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Vermont and Maine, New Hampshire stands out for its libertarian leanings-- no state income tax, no state sales tax, license plates proclaiming “Live Free or Die”.

Photo by PennStateNews under a Creative Commons license.

How a Commons Way of Life Helps Curb Climate Change

April 19, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

It’s easy to not think about the looming climate crisis. For one thing, it’s depressing to ponder the misery ahead if we don’t take drastic steps now to curb greenhouse emissions. It’s even more depressing when you consider that even the most modest steps to reduce carbon use in the US have been derailed by corporate lobbyists and ideological zealots.

Mike Rolliin

"The Wealth of Nations"

April 15, 2014

The Wealth of Nations


Kids playing in Chicago's Millenium Park. (Photo by Kymberly Janisch under a Creative Commons license)

Parks Are Crucial for Children and Other Living Things

April 14, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

When my long-time friend John became a father, he confided to me that the world suddenly was divided into two distinct camps: people with children and those without. This puzzled me; I figured it was his excuse for being out of touch.

Photo courtesy of PM Press

Stop, Thief!

April 14, 2014

We’re losing the ground of our subsistence to the privileged and the mighty. With the theft of our pensions, houses, universities, and land, people all over the world cry, Stop Thief! and start to think about the commons and act in its name.

But what is the commons? Its 21st century meaning is emerging from the darkness of centuries past.

How Sharing Can Shift the Spirit of the Times

April 13, 2014 | By Jessica Conrad

Not long ago Neal Gorenflo, co-founder of Shareable--an award-winning news, action and connection hub for the sharing movement--called himself an “unlikely voice for sharing.” An epiphany in 2004 spurred him to leave his job as a corporate strategist and become a strategist for the common good. Without question, it was the right move for him. Gorenflo says his decision led him to develop a more collaborative lifestyle that’s “nothing short of magical.” 

Why Do I Work So Hard?

April 13, 2014

Car ads are generally not the place you look for inspiration about a commons way of life.  But a recent duel between GM and Ford offers a keen comparison of what’s at stake.