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The Commons

How To Unite Local Initiatives For A More Sustainable Global Future

This article challenges the belief in high-tech solutions to solve socio-environmental crises, proposing a political vision beyond “green growth” and “ecomodernism.”. It advocates for a commons-based technology framework, promoting collective resource management for sustainability. We thus introduce “cosmolocal” production, a configuration that strives to connect communities around shared resources and serve their needs while minimizing ecological impact. Despite acknowledged tensions, we contend that the cosmolocal framework could foster institutional and social change, aiming to address environmental degradation and wealth inequality.

Cooking Sections’ Singular Stew Of Art, Activism, And Local Food

What a delight to encounter the work of the British artistic duo Cooking Sections, two British artists whose virtuoso artworks effortlessly blend art with activism, local commoning, and eco-stewardship in the service of climate-friendly foodways. Alon Schwabe and Daniel Fernández Pascual -- Senior Research Fellows at the Royal College of Art in London – create distinctive works of art about modern food that are also enmeshed in the fabric of everyday life:  land, intertidal waters, restaurants, buildings, social festivals. The canvas for their art is large and unconventional: the bioregional theaters of the world where food is grown and harvested, from Scotland and Istanbul to southern Italy and South Korea, and beyond.

Advancing The Commonsverse

Bollier and Helfrich’s theory restores an older tradition of a moral critique of capitalism in the tradition of “moral economists” such as Karl Polanyi and H.P. Tawney. It raises important questions about the socio-ethical foundations of our society and economy, the relationship between civil associations and the state, and the nature of the state. In the final part of this introduction, we discuss the complex relationship between the commons and the state. We frame this relationship as one of mutual dependency and argue for the careful redesign of our institutions of public administration and democratic governance to make them more receptive and accessible to the creative powers of the commons.

Building Democratic Governance On The Internet

The default form of governance on Internet platforms is "implicit feudalism," Nathan Schneider provocatively declares in his new book Governance Spaces: Democratic Design for Online Life. Implicit feudalism is "a bias, both cultural and technical, for building communities as fiefdoms," in which founders become "benevolent dictators for life," he argues.  Unfortunately, authoritarian governance is not confined to social media platforms. The same tendencies bleed into the "real world," too, if only because the lines between online and "real life" have become quite blurry these days.

Using Solar Commons To Decentralize And Share Solar Energy

Energy from the sun is sure one of the most pervasive forms of common wealth. So why not capture and share that wealth more widely with everyone? That's the basic idea behind the Solar Commons, a prototype project that uses revenue streams from solar energy and partnerships to build community wealth. The primary vehicle is a Solar Commons trust agreement among diverse community groups and the owner of a solar power array. The driving force behind this socio-legal innovation has been Kathryn Milun, a community-engaged scholar, writer and energy democracy advocate.

Commons And Commoning: A Progressive Vision Of A Good Society

Established systems don't welcome fundamentally new ideas – even when they desperately need them, even if people are clamoring for them. Entrenched systems see new ideas and logics as disruptive. They see them as threatening and even incomprehensible. And yet, as Albert Einstein famously said, "Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them." We're at an impasse today because contemporary institutions keep bringing the same mindset to solving problems that need some fresh and strikingly different approaches. The many problems afflicting agriculture and the food system today are fundamentally similar to those afflicting the rest of society. They are just another theater for rentier capitalism, which relies on market/state collusion, extractivism of nature, and systemic precarity for many ordinary people.

Reimagining Economics Education

Jennifer Brandsberg-Engelmann, an international secondary school educator and curriculum developer, had long been appalled by the dismal state of economics education for young people.  Students at middle and high schools learn about a "degenerative economic system," as she puts it, in which "the economy" is framed as something separate from society and nature. With little sense of contemporary realities, economics courses assume that endless economic growth is desirable and possible. It focuses on businesses and markets, ignoring the vital role that household care and the commons play.

The Right To Repair And Other Forms Of Peer Creativity

Can creativity flourish and remain within the control of commoners? Or will businesses inevitably capture creativity and convert it into private property to make money?  Copyright and trademark law are certainly designed for those purposes. They presume a market identity for creators of art, software, and new knowledge. And in fact, the corporate world routinely vacuums up creativity that's developed through commoning – images, music, know-how, social sharing. Yet history tells another story. It shows that creativity naturally thrives in commons, and need not enter the marketplace to find support or fruition.

Comics About The Commons: ‘Seeing Beyond The Map’

In a novel popularization about commons, the Centre for Future Natures at the Institute of Development Studies in the UK, has published a compelling set of comics, "Seeing Beyond the Map." The two comics, presented in the style of an old-style pulp comic book, are an amusing  educational experiment in alternative cartography.  The stories unpack many mystifications about the commons, including the so-called "tragedy" parable, while offering a more accurate conceptual map and narrative of the commons. (You can download the 14-page PDF here.)  In a blog post introducing the comics, Amber Huff, Principal Investigator at Future Natures, writes, "Maps tell stories about relationships.

The Breakthrough Insulin Device Developed By Commoners

I've seen a lot of commons over the years, but I was amazed to learn about the #WeAreNot Waiting movement and its open-source automated insulin delivery (OS-AID) device for people with diabetes. This global movement of thousands of techies and allies created itself, and its device, through commoning, outflanking a stodgy, risk-averse medical device industry. The homegrown OS-AID system consists of a continuous glucose monitoring sensor worn on one's body, an electronically connected insulin pump, and a smartphone app whose sophisticated algorithm automatically monitors glucose levels and delivers just the right amount of insulin needed, in near-real time.  

The Anthropocene? No, We’re Actually Entering The Ecocene!

We moderns are so self-important that we’ve even named a geological epoch after ourselves, the Anthropocene. Sure, human civilization has massively transformed and destabilized the planet’s ecosystems. But Anthropocene is ultimately a misleading moniker because it implies that we humans are the driving force on Earth. How self-regarding! As a parade of wildfires, floods, droughts, and extreme heat are showing, it’s Gaia who is calling the shots. She’s making her own fierce, non-negotiable demands on us. She’s bursting the frames of order that humans have long used to shape civilization, capitalism, the state, and culture.

Create A Schumacher Action Lab; Reconstitute The World

In truth, our times don’t just require a new movement. They require a new type of movement, because the old movements and ideologies and organizations are not achieving what are needed. Too many of them are artifacts of an archaic, fading order of economics and political action. Think about it:  It’s been more than three decades since we first learned that science had confirmed the reality of climate change. The 2008 financial meltdown – 15 years ago! -- revealed the arrogant power of global finance and capitalism – and yet the liberal state still has not significantly reformed those financial structures.

The Tragedy Of Misunderstanding The Commons

Guilford, CT — A thousand people gather on the Green, sharing umbrellas and straining to hear the valedictorian above the thunderstorm. She’s talking about the Green, a sixteen-acre park at the center of town where townspeople get together for concerts, picnics and the annual high school graduation. The speaker does not mention that we are sitting over bodies interred in the seventeenth century, for the Green has served other purposes: At various times it’s been a burial ground, a marching ground, a grazing ground and even a campground for townsfolk who lived too far from church to make it to town and home in the same day.

Activating The Unrealised Potential Of Care Networks

Most care services use a ‘Deliveroo’ service model: Individual care workers deliver care as if it were a package to another individual's home. These care workers have no connection to that person's wider support network, their neighbourhood or community. They also have no freedom or control over their day-to-day work. This amounts to a service that provides care independently from the support networks embedded in people’s local communities; any collaboration with these support networks in service delivery is generally incidental to a services organisation rather than a direct consequence of it. This is OK if you really are delivering a package, as all you need is a postcode; it is not OK when you are providing care.

The Commonsverse As A Parallel Polis: Opportunities And Challenges

The dialogue provoked by this workshop is timely and necessary because so many of the certitudes of political economy and culture are slowly crumbling before our eyes. It's fair to say that so many grand narratives of our time -- about citizenship, freedom, property rights, economic growth, and theories of value – have been called into question these days. Existing institutions and categories of thought aren't working so well. On the one hand, few people want to talk about structural change and necessary alternatives lest it open a Pandora's Box of monsters and chaos.
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