I am so pleased that the Occupy and Commons movements are finding each other and starting a new conversation. Occupy is an incredible force for change. It has a bracing vision, a deeply principled philosophy, and an independent, risk-taking spirit that is unusual in American political life. There are many challenges for Occupy, however, as it tries to imagine new ways to move forward and grow. I’d like to suggest how the commons framing and language may be strategically important by surveying the international scene of commons activism, which is remarkably robust. There is a lot is going on — but I won’t presume to be comprehensive; my apologies for any significant omissions.
Let me start by giving a brief speculation about why people from so many backgrounds are embracing the commons. First of all, it is a way for people to assert the integrity of their existing communities, or to try to reclaim that integrity. The commons also provides a way to assert a moral relationship to certain resources and people that are endangered by market forces. It’s a way of saying, “That _________ (water, air, software code, cultural tradition) belongs to me. It is part of my life and identity.”
Many people are embracing the commons, too, because it provides a powerful critique of neoliberal capitalism. But it is much more than that. It is a pro-active set of alternatives that work. And therefore it provides a positive, constructive scaffolding for practical alternatives to the prevailing market economy and corrupt political process. But the commons is still more than this. It is not just a policy critique or political philosophy, but equally a distinctive worldview, language and social ethic.
This is an update on a previous advert for the Sococracy workshop we ran on this site recently.
Due to popular demand, and a bit of last minute finessing, we’ve managed to reduce the cost of the upcoming Sociocracy to make it more accessible. The two day workshop has been reduced to $350, but will still provide you with the practical tools to implement a fairer, more engaging, more effective decision making system that’s already been used for over 40 years. If you’re sick of seeing community initiatives fall over because of a failure to make decisions or deal with power fairly, then it’s time to learn more about Sociocracy.
We’re also now planning to run a one hour introduction to Sociocracy on Friday night, the 16th of March. For more information or to register for any of the Sociocracy workshops, please go to sociocracyworkshop.wordpress.com.
Just outside of Arusha, Tanzania, is ‘Kesho Leo’– a sustainable home for vulnerable women and children operated by FoodWaterShelter. The principles of permaculture underpin the daily lives of the Kesho Leo residents. It is currently the home of seven families, each headed by a Tanzanian mama who cares for up to five children, including orphans. In addition to the daily essentials, Kesho Leo provides the many other aspects that a ‘home’ needs; access to family and social support, access to education and health, and very importantly – access to community.
Permaculture meeting the needs of the Kesho Leo residents
Revolving around the community and education aspects of Kesho Leo are the permaculture systems that strive to provide all of the food, water and energy needs of the residents. Basic needs of water, sanitation and power are provided through rainwater harvesting, innovative batch compost toilet systems, and solar power.
Peak Moment host Janaia Donaldson joins Fulvio Casali, Kathy Pelish and Alex Tokar, co-founders of the Salish Sea Trading Cooperative, on the deck of the sailboat Soliton, docked in Ballard, near Seattle, Washington.
The Salish Sea Trading Cooperative have teamed up with Nash’s organic produce in Sequim, where twice a month they arrive by sailboat, to collect the produce, before heading back to Ballard for distribution to the local community through their CSA scheme.
What: 11th European Permaculture Convergence (EUPC) When: August 1st – 5th, 2012 Where: Escherode/Kassel, Germany
Dear activist-friends in Europe
The website for registration is online and we invite you to check the key note speakers, lectures and workshops already listed. This program will grow step by step as soon as people register and send us their proposals for participation.
We are sending our call to come and join the European Permaculture Convergence from 1st – 5th August 2012 in Escherode/Kassel, Germany: NOW – Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share.
U.S. meat consumption has peaked. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that meat eating across the country fell from the 2004 high point of 184 pounds (83 kilograms) per person to 171 pounds in 2011. Early estimates for 2012 project a further reduction in American meat eating to 166 pounds, making for a 10 percent drop over the eight-year period. For a society that lives high on the food chain, this new trend could signal the end of meat’s mealtime dominance.
Total U.S. meat consumption peaked in 2007 at 55 billion pounds and has fallen each year since. In 2012, consumption is expected to drop to 52 billion pounds, the lowest level in more than a decade.
In a land of contrast, mystery and years of imperialism, a small village of over 300 people on the edge of the Kalahari in Namibia germinated a new permaculture resiliency project in January of 2012. In talking with the headman of the village, he shared that their people, the San Bushmen, have lived in harmony with the land as hunter gatherers for eons. They are often cited as the first peoples of Africa and very likely all of humanity may have descended from their ranks many millennia ago.
The village elder sadly shared that colonialism has destroyed the San migratory way of life — a hunter gatherer tradition that was sustainable for thousands of years. He told us that they were no longer allowed to roam freely and trophy hunters destroyed the vast herds of game that formed their principal supply of food. Both Black and White farmers alike built up huge herds of cattle that destroyed the ecology of the Kalahari and subsequently the foods that had been their staple diet. They soon found they had to work for the farmers to be able to feed their families and hence a cycle of poverty and separation from their cultural roots ensued.
This is no ordinary worm farm: it is a fun project to do with the kids, it works like the best of farms, it looks fantastic and… it doesn’t cost any money!
Here’s how to make it:
1. Get three polystyrene boxes from your local fish shop / market / green grocer. The boxes should all be of the same size, stackable, in good condition, and preferably white (mine were printed; it wasn’t the end of the world, just required a little extra work). One of them needs to have a lid.
I have been asked to address what the commons might have to say about urban spaces and urban life. The short answer is, a lot!
First, the language of the commons helps us assert a moral entitlement to public spaces again. It lets us challenge the unholy alliance of politicians, developers and professional architects and planners, and insist that city spaces serve our needs as ordinary people. This means, first of all, that commercial considerations cannot crowd out vital common purposes – as we see when the market or authoritarians take over.
We did it everyone! It is now official. The UMass Permaculture team will be heading to the White House on March 15! This has been an amazing and inspiring week to see the voting results unfold and be in the center of it all. I can’t thank everyone enough for the support you’ve provided us with.
I’d like to share some reflections for how this week has been for me personally.