“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” —American essayist E.B.White.
The fate of the commons appears dire today. The environment is under full-scale assault. Public services are being slashed. Community bonds are fraying. Campaigns to privatize what belongs to all of us are on the march.
What can we do to protect all we share?
While it’s critical to support education and activist efforts, it’s also crucial to enjoy the many ways the commons enrich our lives— and do it in a very public and jubilant way.
The best way to convince people the commons matters is by showing how much it adds to our lives. Human beings, especially in Western societies, are aspirational in their outlook. They are strongly motivated by visions of a happier, more meaningful future. This means they will rally around the cause of the commons as way to get more out of life.
Let your friends and neighbors see you hanging out at the coffee shop, browsing the at the farmers’ market, stopping to chat at the local park or library. Show people how sharing resources and skills—in other words commoning—makes a better community for everyone. Your example as a smiling commoner may be just as important as your work as a tireless advocate and organizer.
Of course, as E.B. White implies in the quote above, it takes time to appreciate and showcase all the commons has to offer, which might feel like a retreat from the essential work of saving the commons. Yet time spent savoring what’s wonderful around us will instill you with more energy to preserve the commons in the years to come. And this first-hand experience will make you a more effective and appealing advocate for making a better world.