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Introduction to the Commons

Let's Reclaim the Commons

on Sun, 09/19/2010 - 14:46

This is a brief, but comprehensive summary of the commons.  It outlines two important principles: (1) the use of common property should benefit all community members; and (2) our use of a common resource must not diminish its value for future generations.

State of the Commons

on Sun, 09/19/2010 - 15:43

 An excellent summary of the commons. The article distinguishes among key terms such as commons, common assets, common property, and common wealth.   It distinguishes between exchange value and intrinsic value.  Six key commons are discussed--sky, airwaves, water, culture, science, and quiet.  While it's examples are drawn from the U.S., the basic points apply throughout the world.

Commons Rising

on Sun, 09/19/2010 - 16:11

This informative article notes that if economic growth is to create net wealth over the long term, it must not degrade the commons.  We often mistake value extraction in the commons for value creation in the private sector.  The article suggests that strengthening the commons requires: (1) new structures for commons management; (2) property rights for the commons; (3) government or public sector support; and (4) citizen involvement.

Imaging a New Politics of the Commons

on Sun, 09/19/2010 - 16:21

 David Bollier's impassioned article suggests that the framework of the commons offers a new paradigm for considering human affairs and reframing societal values.

The Enclosure of the Commons

Enclosure - Wikipedia

on Mon, 09/20/2010 - 10:37

Here is a Wikipedia entry that nicely summarizes the history of the enclosure movement in Great Britain beginning in 1235.  At the end of the article there is a list of contemporary movements against enclosure, particularly in the global south.

Wrapping Our Legal Minds Around the Global Commons: Res Nullius, Res Communis, and Res Divini Juris

on Sun, 09/26/2010 - 13:59

Enclosure is usually enforced through legal statutes.  Kathryn Milun's brief web article focuses on the laws governing outer space which has its precedent in Roman law.  Milun includes a description of the different categories of Roman law and suggests that these differences may provide guidance for governing the commons.

Silent Theft - The Private Plunder of Our Common Wealth

on Sun, 09/26/2010 - 14:19

Silent Thief by David Bollier is, in my view, the best book available on the issue of enclosure.  This introducction ot the book summarizes key issues, as well as suggested solutions.  While it focuses primarily on the U.S., its lessons are instructive worldwide. 

The Enclosure of the Commons

on Sun, 09/26/2010 - 14:26

Noted physicist and activist Vandana Shiva's article is 13 years old but is as relevant today as when originally written.  She describes how a Eurocentric concept of property and ownership places the global south at a distinct disadvantage.

Brand Name Bullies - Introduction

on Sun, 09/26/2010 - 14:27

Brand Name Bullies is a lively and instructive book by David Bollier that documents the enclosure of the cultural commons by powerful economic interests.  This introduction to the book delineates important arguments that need to be heeded.

Brand Name Bullies - Excerpts

on Sun, 09/26/2010 - 14:29

This is an excerpt from Brand Name Bullies that effectively uses outrageous examples to drive home the book's main thesis.

Great Lakes Commons Initiative

The Great Lakes Overview

on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 02:23

This is a briefing document on Great Lakes (General Facts, Environmental Challenges, Economic Impact, Water Use, Governance, Structures for Commons)

America’s North Coast: A Benefit-Cost Analysis of a Program to Protect and Restore the Great Lakes

on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 01:55

This study answers the question: what are healthy Great Lakes worth to the regional and national economies? If the nation and region invest in Great Lakes ecosystem restoration as the EPA-led task force recommends, what will be the economic return on that investment? The findings of this study conclude that restoration will provide economic benefits to both the region and the nation that substantially exceed the costs.

Restoring the Trust: Water Resources and the Public Trust Doctrine, A Manual for Advocates

on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 01:54

The public trust doctrine holds that certain natural resources belong to all and cannot be privately owned or controlled because of their inherent importance to each individual and society as a whole. A clear declaration of public ownership, the doctrine reaffirms the superiority of public rights over private rights for critical resources. It impresses upon states the affirmative duties of a trustee to manage these natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations and embodies key principles of environmental protection: stewardship, communal responsibility, and sustainability.


on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 01:52

The Great Lakes region, too long tagged with the misleading nickname, The Rust Belt, could show the rest of the country the way forward to the next economy. Although battered by decades of declining economic health, and particularly by the recession, the nation’s heartland still has many of the fundamental resources—top-ranked universities, companies with deep experience in global trade, and emerging centers of clean energy research to name just a few—necessary to create a better, more sustainable, economic model.


on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 01:50

Under the Compact, the eight Great Lakes states agree to adopt water-conservation plans and to abide by Compact rules for allowing and managing diversions of Great Lakes water. The Compact recognizes the lakes as a shared resource which no single state owns, but of which all states are stewards. As such, a defining feature of the Compact is its emphasis on using regional cooperation to manage the lakes as a single ecosystem.

Lake Michigan Oil and Gas Drilling: Worth the Risk?

on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 01:49

Drilling under Lake Michigan is a venture that has serious implications for the overall health and use of the take by its communities. The Lake Michigan Federation has prepared this report to help citizens understand the public, environmental and economic issues related to oil and gas drilling under Lake Michigan and offer recommendations to safeguard the lake.


on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 01:47

Do we push for the enactment of the 2005 Compact in its present form, or do we pause and consider whether this Compact meets, exceeds, or falls short of the vision to protect the life-enduring qualities of the waters, the sustenance for life, communities, the environment, human endeavor, and commerce in the Basin?


Trends in Water Privatization (Report)

on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 01:46

Confronted with daunting budget shortfalls following the recent economic downturn, various cities and towns across the country have considered cashing out their water utilities to generate revenue. But rather than ease fiscal pressures, the sale or lease of water assets would likely further weaken a locality’s long-term financial health and saddle consumers with debt.Many communities have saved money with public operation.


Priceless - The Market Myth of Water Pricing Reform (Report)

on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 01:44

Focusing solely on water pricing as the mechanism for managing demand is unfair to ratepayers and doomed to be ineffective. We must recognize the collective impacts of water use, from agricultural needs to industrial needs to home needs, and demand collective responsibility.

Water Quality Issues in the US Wine Industry Affect Small Communities

on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 01:40

As the wine industry grows in economic importance, wineries face an increasingly stringent level of scrutiny from environmentalists and government regulators. Wastewater discharge from winery operations is becoming an area of particular concern.

The Great Lakes as Bottled Water

on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 01:39

When bottled water is placed next to Coca-Cola and other sugar-laden soft drinks, it seems a positive alternative, or at least benign. But take a closer look at the process by which that small unit of ordinary water has been acquired, packaged and marketed to you – for $1.50 a bottle, say – and you begin to see how bottled water is often a deep offense against the commons.  It’s a matter of taking something that belongs to all of us, denying its ecological importance, adding some modest proprietary value and marketing sizzle, and then selling it back to us at a huge markup.

Leveraging the Great Lakes Region’s Water Assets for Economic Growth

on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 01:36

This region’s 10,000 miles of lakefront, coupled with thousands of miles of regional rivers, streams, and inland lakes are an increasingly valuable amenity: In 2007, 2.7 million jobs were linked to the waters of the Great Lakes, accounting for $150 billion in compensation. As these waters are cleaned and made available for development, recreation, and tourism, they enrich the region’s quality of life and can help stimulate economic growth.

Water Availability and Use Pilot: A Multiscale Assessment in the U.S. Great Lakes Basin

on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 01:34

The focus of this study was on collecting, compiling, and analyzing a wide variety of data to define the storage and dynamics of water resources and quantify the human demands on water in the Great Lakes region.

Risk Reduction Study Fact Sheet - Environmental DNA (eDNA)

on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 01:31

The presence of species can be detected by filtering water samples, and then extracting and amplifying short fragments of the shed DNA. In contrast to other surveillance methods, the environmental DNA (eDNA) method does not rely on direct observation of Asian carp to evaluate presence.

Diversions of Great Lakes Water

on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 01:29

Diversions may transfer water in or out of the Great Lakes basin, or between the watersheds of different lakes or rivers within the basin. While the impacts of existing diversions on lake levels are minor, they alter the natural flow of the Great Lakes and water returned from diversions may be of a different quality than when it was withdrawn.