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Jay Walljasper: How Not to Save the Commons

September 22, 2010

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**By Jay Walljasper**

Editors’ Note: One of the earliest voices to speak out about the importance of the commons was the Ecologist Magazine, founded in England by the outspoken environmental visionary Edward Goldsmith, one of the founders of the UK Green Party. In 1993, they published a seminal book Whose Common Future?: Reclaiming the Commons (New Society Publishers), which still makes powerful reading about why the commons is important. (Goldsmith died last year but the Ecologist, edited by his nephew Zac Goldsmith, endures on online.)

Commons emerge through ordinary people’s day-to-day resistance to enclosure.

Here is a provocative excerpt from the book:

The commons cannot be created or strengthened by economists, development planners, legislators or specialists. To place the future in the hands of such individuals would be to maintain the webs of power that are currently stifling the commons.

One cannot legislate the commons into existence; nor can the commons be reclaimed simply by adopting green techniques such as organic agriculture, alternative energy strategies or better public transport—as necessary and desirable as these things are.

Rather, commons emerge through ordinary people’s day-to-day resistance to enclosure, and through their efforts to regain the mutual support, responsibility and trust that sustain the commons.

That is not to say that one cannot ignore policymakers or policymaking. The depredations of transnational corporations, international bureaucracies and national governments cannot go unchallenged. But social movements have a responsibility to ensure that in seeking solutions, they do not remove the initiative from those who are defending or regenerating the commons.

Copyright 2010 Jay Walljasper

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This post originally appeared at ONTHECOMMONS.ORG

Jay Walljasper is an editor at On The Commons. He is a writer who covers urban, community, environmental, cultural, international, and travel issues. His most recent book is the The Great Neighborhood Book, a guide to how people can change the world on their own block. He is a senior fellow at Project for Public Spaces and senior editor at Ode magazine and writes a blog on green cities for the National Geographic Green Guide and covers sustainable travel for National Geographic Traveler. For many years Jay was editor of Utne Reader.

To read blog entries from Jay Walljasper and others at GUERNICA click HERE .

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