David Bollier explains what is a “Commons”

According to David Bollier, the commons is “A social system for the long-term stewardship of resources that preserves shared values and community identity.” These systems are self-sufficient, using very limited support from the marketplace or government to organize and provide resources for the community. These resources are usually renewable and eco-friendly. The commons does not concern itself with the stock market. Those involved in the commons do not seek progress for the sake of progress if it damages the wellbeing of future generations of humans or other populations of beings. The intention of the commons is to pass on the “gifts” born out of communal work to future generations. Bollier comments on these gifts: “Our collective wealth includes the gifts of nature, civic infrastructure, cultural works and traditions, and knowledge.” Bollier makes the definition of the commons simple- by defining what it is not. He claims the commons has no great deal of inventory, because commons exist based upon the individual needs of the community as they arise. It is not a resource (e.g. oceans are common, but not a resource). Rather, commons are functioning organisms that need preservation and protection. Commons require group participation to secure their place in society; there can be no commons without a community willing to work together. They demand co-creation and the truest participation in geographical co-habitation. Bollier makes a special note about how the commons are not to be privatized, and points out the current state of our world in which corporations patent natural resources (like private ownership of land). A great example of a commons is Yellowstone National Park- a place that has been preserved for future generations to visit and enjoy. Bollier writes about the main difference between the marketplace and the commons, “Markets tend to have thin commitments to localities, cultures and ways of life; for any commons, however, these are indispensable.” He concludes with commentary about open networks, “Open networks are a natural hosting infrastructure for commons.” Information, much like the ocean, is also a commons and is the basis of future co-creating and infrastructure organizing. One could argue that the technological expansion of our world could be the very thing to save the most natural, environmental aspects of our planet. One commons (technology) can serve to save the other (water, land, and ecosystems) by uniting the people of the globe towards a common cause.

written by Shawna Marie Rodgers

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