The Commons Are Everywhere

Once you start looking for the commons, you’ll find them everywhere, from roads and water to money systems and the stock market, to the Internet and the oceans. As commons-based thinking grows in influence, wepresent this guide to some of our favorite resources and writings on the commons. Also see our series of articles on the commons in the September-October 2010 issue of Utne Reader.

The nonprofit organization On the Commons is one of the best single sources on the commons, featuring resources on a host of topics and writers including former Utne Reader editor Jay Walljasper and activist/strategist David Bollier.

The website Shareable emphasizes sharing more than commons as its buzzword, but it covers similar ground. One notable project is theShareable Futures series, featuring stories and essays that touch on commons themes by writers including sci-fi scribes Cory Doctorow and Bruce Sterling.

If you enjoyed the interview with commons pioneer Elinor Ostrom in the September-October Utne Reader, check out her “8 Keys to a Successful Commons” that ran with the original interview in Yes magazine.

Former labor secretary Robert Reich weighs in with a way to help the ailing economy–invest in the common good–in his article “From Consumers to Commons in The American Prospect.

David Bollier extends this line of thinking to drugs and treatments in “Restore Medicine to the Commons from the Boston Review.

As we prepare to reform copyright and intellectual property law for a digital era, commons thinking is forming some of the legal foundation. Cornell Law Review dedicated an entire issue to the cultural commons, which extends from Wikipedia and Linux software to the Associated Press and jam-band fan communities that trade concert recordings. Using Elinor Ostrom’s research as a starting point, a host of writers point the way to possible futures.

Last year, a study found that commons-based forest management can be good for people, the forest, and a warming earth. Read about it at New Scientist or Treehugger–or see the report itself, “Trade-offs and Synergies Between Carbon Storage and Livelihood Benefits from Forest Commons,” by Ashwini Chhatrea and Arun Agrawalk, from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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