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The Commons

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.

Housing Can Help Cultivate Connections

Oakland, California - Shortly after the opening of Tassafaronga Village, a renewed 7.5-acre community in East Oakland, the Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project put down roots in the adjacent park. Founder Kelly Carlisle had been looking for a place to start a community farm and was inspired by the bright new neighborhood. After returning to East Oakland, where she’d spent some of her youth, as an adult, she was on the lookout for a place to make a local impact and seized on the opportunity presented by the new housing. Her nonprofit farm project – named after the Latin phrase for “actions, not words” – set out to invest in youth through urban agriculture, creating a secure and creative outdoor space for East Oakland’s youth and families.

Rights Of Nature, Self-Owning Land, And Other Hacks On Western Law

The idea that the Ganges River in India or the Amazon Basin in Brazil should have "legal personhood" – and thus be able to defend its interests in court – was considered zany only ten or fifteen years ago, at least in Europe and North America. Now this once-fringe legal concept is going mainstream. Legislatures or courts in twelve countries have recognized the "rights of nature" at the state, local, and/or national levels in a dozen nations. In the United States alone, some three dozen communities –from Pittsburgh and Toledo to Orange County, Florida (population 1.5 million people) – have enacted such laws, often with overwhelming public support.

Protecting New Mexico’s Centuries-Old Water Democracy

How do we mediate our relationship with water? Those in areas with unquestioned and sufficient supply may have issues with affordability and cleanliness. But in dryer parts of the country — and the world — more fundamental challenges with the allocation of scarce water are coming increasingly to the fore. In New Mexico, the reality of scarcity pits an Indigenous perspective of water as part of the commons against a Western worldview that is centered in a system of individual property rights. These two perspectives are colliding with ever greater intensity and higher stakes. On the one side there is a deep history of traditional water systems, bringing wide support from the Indigenous community, local food and water supporters, and religious and environmental groups.

Hydropolitics: An Interview With Erik Swyngedouw

Water is not, and has never been, a standalone issue. Over the past 20 or 30 years, in a context of increasing concern with access to water in terms of quality, particularly in the global south, there has been an extraordinary amount of activism around water: access, struggle, ownership, etc. What has that done to systematically change the configuration of access to water? Almost nothing. Clearly the highly triaged and uneven access and distribution of water is a major issue. It’s the number one cause of premature mortality in the world. Poor access to water is a concern that many activists share. Something has to be done. But the focus on the specificity of the issue is politically stifling.
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