The Work We Do, Battles to protect the Commons


The work of our network falls into categories – –   battle-fronts to protect The Commons in an era of unprecedented assault on them.   Our success or failure affects the ability of future generations to care for themselves.

What is   THE COMMONS ?

The dictionary says  Of or relating to the community as a whole; public: for the common good.


(The Tragedy of the Commons is on my list of books to read!  – – still.)

I constructed my own understanding of The Commons.

In working through questions like  What does a community need in order to survive – –  to be sustainable?  it seemed to me that the answer leads to a list of what might be considered The Commons.   They are things that a community needs in order to be healthy, and it works out that they are all SHARED things.   The community needs to work together to protect some things and build on them, if it wishes to thrive.  If the community cannot get its act together and work together to care for these resources (The Commons),  the community will decline; it is not sustainable.

That there will be decline in the face of failure to protect The Commons makes sense.   I have appended some definitions of The Commons from the Urban Dictionary that speak to that point.

I propose that The Commons are roughly comprised of the CATEGORIES (right-hand sidebar) into which our “battles” fall.   There are the obvious ones like air, water, land and climate.  If we don’t jointly care for those things we are toast.  We won’t survive.

There are some other components, I think, of  The Commons.   We know from the experience of the Dark Ages that the knowledge base of a society is important to its survival, for example.

In no particular order and perhaps incomplete,  my working list for THE COMMONS, the things we need to work hard to protect:

  • PEACE versus VIOLENCE (destruction)
  • KNOWLEDGE BASE (education, science)
  • ENERGY SOURCE  (renewables versus oil and gas and nuclear)
  • VALUES (community not corporate)
  • FOOD SUPPLY (nutritious and health-giving, not industrial)
  • EMPOWERMENT (inspiration)

(Repeat)  The work of our network roughly falls into these preceding categories – –   battle-fronts to protect The Commons in an era of unprecedented assault on them.   Our success or failure affects the ability of future generations to care for themselves.

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  •  The term has its origins in the sharing of grazing land in a given community, called “the commons”, in Britain.  An individual farmer could increase his or her profits by using more of the commons than others. The other farmers would then follow suit, leading to the overexploitation and destruction of that land.


  • In its modern usage, the phrase refers to the exploitation of a common resource. In game theory it is used as an example of how, in a given situation, every individual can choose to do what is best for their own interests and still produce the worst sum result for the whole.


  • A common way to negotiate this problem is through private ownership. Another way is through regulation and the imposition of sanctions on violators.  Usage: When big companies pollute the air, it’s another example of the tragedy of the commons.


  • When a finite resource is exploited by one and all, with the rationale that if I don’t exploit it my brother will. The end result is the exhaustion of that resource.   The massacre of the buffalo in America by early settlers for sheer sport, was an unneccessary tragedy of the commons.


  • The unfortunate predicament caused when a public resource, such as a natural resource like land or game, is consumed by everyone but maintained by no one.


  • Everyone feels they have the right to consume because they are part of the public, but no one feels it their responsibility to maintain it because they are not individually accountable.


  • The idea that since no one owns a common area (e.g., a public park) that no one takes care of it.  The rundown condition of the park was another example of the tragedy of the commons.


  • A situation where the overuse or abuse by some of a resource that lies in the public domain leads to the loss of use of the resource for everyone.  When Fred let his sheep graze on the public square, he caused a real tragedy of the commons . . . now where are the college students supposed to go to play frisbee?