Session 5: Three Stories of the Commons

Posted March 26, 2011 in Curriculum, Learning. Tagged: ,


Read Aloud

Three Stories of the Commons

First Reader:  Water

Water is one of the most ancient and important commons we have.  Do you have memories of a favorite swimming hole or spring?  Did you grow up watering a vegetable garden or playing in the spray of a hose?  


From communal wells to some of the best municipal water systems in the world, communities in this country understood that everyone needed water to survive and therefore had a rightful claim on this life necessity.  The law has also treated waterways as within the public domain and in many cases protected public purposes for water use.  In recent decades, however, corporations have seen the profit to be made in controlling and selling water.  As a result, an alarming increase in water privatization poses a threat to our water commons.  Companies are buying up water rights and gaining contracts to manage water systems.  Bottled water in many cases is our own water repackaged and sold back to us at an enormous mark up.


Second Reader:  Libraries

I spent many hours in my town’s library as a kid. It felt like this inexhaustible joy – as many books as I could read, all for free. I could get information and do research too.  We could even check out music and art.  And it wasn’t just in my town but every town. To think that someone in an earlier time had the idea for such a gift to us all…


Well, communities today are seeing that gift diminished.  Even as library use skyrockets in today’s economic climate, communities are facing funding cuts that force cuts in staffing and hours, even closures.


Third Reader:  The Internet

The Internet is one of the most amazing commons ever created.  Who can imagine life without it anymore?  I am still amazed when I use Wikipedia or track down a piece of information, how vibrant this collective creation is.  We use the Internet to connect socially, we gather and share information, we

participate in formal and informal discussions about topics of the day, we share and create cultural expressions, and more and more we seek our news on the Internet.  It has allowed for a democratization of information, music sharing, news making and civic participation.


And yet there is an active battle between those that would preserve the Internet as a commons – a place for open source and sharing – and those that seek to enclose and privatize access.