I’m just back from the Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Leipzig, Germany where 3000 scientists, activists, artists and practitioners gathered. People from 74 nations explored a wide range of topics and perspectives related to degrowth and social transformation including commons, climate justice, food sovereignty, anti-capitalism, indigenous initiatives, Transition, solidarity economy, new forms of democracy and much more. Check out the full program of about 400 events for more detail.
The conference is evidence of the emerging movement of movements, a nascent collaboration capable of addressing the multiple existential crises we face with diverse and practical solutions that can create a good life for all. Video can be found for many of the talks online. Opening plenaries by Albert Acosta & Naomi Klein, addressed the religion of growth and climate change as a civilizational wake-up call. Michel Bauwens, from the P2P Foundation and the Commons Strategies Group spoke eloquently about transitioning to a sustainable commons society.
The highlight of the conference for me was connecting with other people in the commons movement. I learned about many varied initiatives in Germany, Austria, Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Greece, France, England, Ireland, Turkey, and Finland. It was a refreshing oasis of commons thought & practice compared to the desert here in Texas. German and Austrian commoners launched the Transformap at the conference. Still in development, the team is creating a taxonomy for Open Street Map that will allow all the new economy map details to be featured on one many-layered map. We’ll use the Transformap in our upcoming website in 2015.
There’s big news on the Commons Atlas home front. The Commons Atlas has a new name: CommonsScope! CommonsScope is like a microscope for the commons. Besides focusing on maps & data visualizations, CommonsScope reflects our commitment to feature hundreds or even thousands of commons profiles.
We’re in the final stages of preparing to launch our long-awaited crowdfunding campaign. While we’re raising funds for the development of CommonsScope, we’ll also crowdsource information for the commons profiles. We hope you’ll join us for a #CommonsQuest, a global, distributed effort to document specific commons and what should be commons. We’ll share more about the campaigns soon!
We’ve been making huge progress on the Commons Atlas project since our last post.
We’re getting very close to launching our long-awaited Indiegogo campaign! Besides crowdsourcing the funds needed to build the Commons Atlas and Directory knowledge commons, we hope you’ll join us for a grand treasure hunt! Soon you’ll be invited to host a party in your area or online to crowdsource data for the directory of commons.
Another big piece of news is that CommonSpark is now a nonprofit in the state of Texas. In the end of April, we filed for federal tax-exempt status with the IRS. We’re waiting on our letter of determination. If all goes as planned, your donations during the Indiegogo campaign will be tax-deductible.
The members of CommonSpark are ready to make the Commons Atlas a reality in 2014!
We are deeply engaged in the process of creating data and visualizations, including:
A Map of the Movement will help us see the better world that is bursting forth with new life from under the broken concrete that is business as usual. We are building an extensive list of commons and other initiatives from the sharing and solidarity economies. This data will be accessible through both maps and a searchable directory.
All Our Grievances are Connected will expose how all ecological, economic and social ills are connected to the commons. The commons is the common ground. It is a pragmatic, systems-level frame that will give us the ability to see the world with new eyes and help us create the paradigm shift that addresses the catastrophic, wicked problems that currently plague the world.
Privatized Public Resources will identify enclosures of public land, spaces, infrastructure, and cultural assets. This data will show the pervasive capture of our shared wealth by private entities. Currently, we only see the tip of this immense iceberg that tells the story of the greatest theft in the history of humankind.
Our Common Wealth will focus on the aspirational big picture of our shared ecological, cultural and social inheritance and their states of wellbeing. It is critical that we see what we share in order to claim our birthrights. Future generations of all living beings depend on us stepping into the role of steward of all we share.
The Commons Atlas also will serve as a portal to the existing commons-related maps and data visualizations, petabytes of open data related to the commons, and tools you can use to create your own visualizations and commons. You can get a small taste of what’s to come here on the CommonSpark website:
What can you do at the Commons Atlas website?
Discover. Explore the maps and data. Learn about real commons, how they work, their successes and challenges, and be inspired by how people successfully share.
Create. Use open data and the tools to create compelling visualizations. You can also visualize your own data and map local, regional, and global commons. Identify opportunities to form new commons and apply applicable processes. The wave of commons creation sparked by your creativity will transform the world.
Contribute. Contribute your knowledge to open maps and data. Add your maps and data to identify and strategically address local, regional or global threats.
Connect. Add yourself and your organization to the directory and share your successes and challenges. Identify commons-related organizations for employment or volunteer opportunities. Connect with other commoners.
Share. Use the maps, data, and tools to educate others in a classroom, online or in your communities. Share maps, data, and other resources through social media.
Stay tuned for the launch of our crowdfunding campaign and global data expedition coming soon! You’re invited to contribute your knowledge to the datasets and your money to a project that will create jobs in the commons sector and build an important and generative knowledge commons.
The creative juices have been flowing and the Commons Atlas continues to emerge into reality.
What’s new? If you love maps, you’re gonna love this.
There are 19 new commons maps and 28 new threat maps. There are some seriously outstanding visualizations, so please take some time to peruse the additions to the collection. You’ll find lists of the new maps below the fold.
There’s also a new collection of resources, including pages of commons organizations, commons-related blogs, and outstanding things to read. Many of the publications have been released under a Creative Commons license and are available for free download.
One book of note is “Wealth of the Commons: Beyond Market & State”. This collection of 73 essays, edited by David Bollier and Silke Helfrich, is a must read for it’s clarity showing the breath and depth of practical commons solutions from authors around the world.
The new dataset is pure gold! The Guardian’s Datablog published an “Ultimate list and resource” which is includes all their datasets since Datablog began in 2009. It’s an immense data library, an A – Z with dozens and dozens of topics.
There’s yet another whole new section with an initial set of processes for creating maps and creating commons. A few favorites from this page include Hackitectura’s process for mapping the urban commons, and the People’s Process from Eradicating Ecocide. Also check out their Eradicating Ecocides, WISH 20 campaign to support an international law against ecocide and put yourself or your organization on their map.
We’re creating our first original maps. I’ve been generating data and working some big spreadsheet magic. It looks like we’ll use MapsMarker and D3 to generate these first visualizations for Austin Commons, Humanity’s Common Wealth, and Global Privatized Public Resources.
Bike Share Map
Census of Marine Life: Footprints of all census projects
Census of Marine Life: Ocean Life: Diversity, Distribution, Abundance
European Protected Sites
Lake Macquarie City Council’s interactive map for crowdsourcing feedback on Warners Bay Town Centre
Mapping America- American Community Survey
National Atlas Streamer
National Complete Streets Coalition
Protect your Watershed: An interactive guide to taking action
The World We Want
Walkscore Waterkeeper Swim Guide
World Heritage List
World of the Census – census of marine life & visualization
Aquatic Dead Zones
Arctic Sea Ice Minimum Volumes 1979-2012
A Time-Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945 by Isao Hashimoto
Block by block, Brooklyn’s past and present: An interactive map showing the age of buildings in Brooklyn
Clean up continues from 2010 oil spill
Extreme Energy in the UK: The big picture
Fracking across the United States
Fracking and Drinking Water Contamination
Gezi protest map
Japan Finally Admits The Truth: “Right Now, We Have An Emergency At Fukishima”
Main issues on Philopappos Hill for the local residents movement
Our Dwindling Food Variety
Privately Owned Public Spaces
Privatization: Michigan School District Support Service Privatization 2008
Status and location of oil and gas pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico
State of Power 2013
The Colorado River
The Histomap: Four Thousand Years of World History, Relative Power of Contemporary States, Nations and Empires
The U.S. Immigration Detention Boom
TPP investment Map: New Privileges for 30,000 Companies?
Waterkeeper Swim Guide
What if you could see inequality?
Women Under Siege
The initial collection of commons maps, threat maps, datasets, and tools for creating data visualizations are now available on the CommonSpark website. The pages can be accessed by the sub-menus of “The Commons Atlas” tab.
Since we are still in the early stages of development, we are using a broad brush in defining both “map” and “commons”. “Map” implies a wide variety of data visualizations, including but not limited to geospatial maps, timelines, network maps, mindmaps, and infographics. The Commons Atlas will have it’s own website eventually, but we plan to share significant pieces as they are developed to encourage feedback, conversation and collaboration.
Our commons maps are “in the spirit of the commons”, meaning they are somehow related to the commons. We include maps of existing commons that already manifest the community + resource + management processes that a fully developed commons implies. We also include maps related to what David Bollier refers to as “aspirational commons”, things that we know deep in our hearts should be shared, like water and air, but are not yet managed as commons. Discussions about how to sort the commons maps are ongoing and the linear method we use here will evolve to represent the reality of the interconnected commons ecosystems.
The threat maps represent specific threats to the commons ecosystem. Current categorization is by primary threat. Like the commons maps, the linear listings don’t begin to address the interconnectivity inherent in these threats. For example, Fraktracker’s US Pipeline Incidents 2011 – early 2013 map is listed under climate change, oil and gas industry and pollution. What isn’t seen yet is how these pipeline incidents affect a wide variety of commons including water, air, health, biodiversity, climate, cultural, indigenous peoples, food, economy, public safety and more. The pipeline threat doesn’t exist in isolation and it doesn’t threaten just one type of commons. The threats are systemic. In addition to climate change, pipeline incidents are related to biodiversity loss, harm to indigenous cultures, racism, socioeconomic inequality, resource grabs, resource depletion, and capitalism.
You can expect us to connect the dots soon.
We hope our two other new collections, data visualization tools and datasets, will empower you to get creative and make your own maps, infographics and memes. We will provide space soon for you to upload your creations, but for now, we’re happy to add your maps to our link library and share them on Twitter and Facebook.
We encourage everyone to submit maps, tools and datasets by using the simple form at the bottom of each page.
As always, we welcome your feedback.
March Against Monsanto rally in Austin, Texas. Photo by Alain Braux.
The 2nd international commons conference, Economics and the Commons, was held a week ago in Berlin. I was watching the livestream when a presenter asked, “Why do you work on the commons?” I heard a variety of answers including “justice” and “it makes sense”.
I frequent quiet, green gardens where direct experiences of interconnectedness are easy to access. This embodied relatedness with nature opens my heart to love for my friends and family, for my cats, for the trees, the bees, the frogs and all living beings who call this beloved earth home. It is love for all my relations that inspires and motivates me.
When I contemplate this planet I cannot avoid awareness of the vast harm inflicted by big money-oil-agriculture-military and the planet-eating political and social systems. They are committing terracide. They pulled off the grandest theft in all of history – the theft of our common wealth. These corporations and their governments take from the commons with impunity and give nothing back except trash and trauma. They are literally stealing our future. This awareness brings me to a terrifying encounter with a colossal wall of grief.
What is the wall of grief? All of the emotions and defenses that we run into when we are confronted by the catastrophe of this historic moment: shock, denial, anger, fear, sorrow, remorse. I know this wall of grief is not mine alone. It is a collective experience. Meme scientists Joe Brewer and Lazlo Karafiath are researching the memes related to climate change in order to find the memes that will motivate us to take action. As they present their initial climate meme report to various audiences, they have gained an awareness of the need for healing the trauma produced by the storms of climate change and the potential for catastrophic ecocide. They realize that we have to address the trauma and the very effective defense mechanism of denial in order to create the livable future so many of us hunger for.
The trauma related to the theft and destruction of commons also needs to be addressed as the commons movement gains momentum. Hundreds of years of enclosure has created inter-generational trauma for indigenous peoples around the globe due to the market state’s theft and pollution of lands, water and culture their communities rely on to sustain life. When people stand up to protect the commons, they may be threatened with imprisonment or murder by the market state as the people of Turkey are now experiencing. Many take their own lives when the market state threatens them or steals their shared resources. Aaron Swartz and the thousands of farmers in India are only the tip of the iceberg.
All the emotion and defenses we encounter at the wall of grief and when we experience trauma are normal. In fact, they are healthy reactions to the circumstances. Time is running short for the commons and for a livable future. We must act now, not later, to create an opening through the wall.
When I follow the threads of my own grief-related emotion, I reach one feeling that is at the core and it provides not only motivation but great healing. Love. It is love that will empower “The Great Turning” and the shift from an industrial-growth society into a life-sustaining civilization. As activist and teacher Thorne Coyle recently said, “Justice requires loving presence. Equity requires loving presence. Integrity requires loving presence.” To get right with the web of life and heal our relationships with each other, other species, and the planet, we must honor our denial, sorrow, anger and remorse. We must forgive ourselves for participating in a system that has proven to be parasitical. And we must tap our love. Our love will lead us to the principles and values that really matter and motivate us to action that heals the world.
I encourage you to find people you can talk with about your feelings and trauma associated with climate change and damage to our commons. Talk about it with all your relations: with friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, counselors, and even complete strangers. They are experiencing this too. You are not alone. Talking will heal. It will help you honor and accept your emotion and motivate you to action that liberates all our beloved relations.
You may be asking yourself, “OK, I get why love motivates you, but why work with the commons?” The more I learn about the commons paradigm, the more hope I find. The commons paradigm is a new and old way to be in healthy relationship with the web of life. The commons are not just the resources we share, they are are our relationships and the practical methods we use to claim and protect all we share. There are no commons without commoning – working together to collectively claim, protect, and govern our common wealth. It is through our relationships that we will heal ourselves and the web of life and create the renaissance that is the Great Turning.
With consideration given to feedback from allies in the commons movement, CommonSpark has refined the scope of its first project for the Commons Library. We feel the most valuable thing we can contribute to the movement at this time is to help people see the commons, so we have begun building a Commons Atlas.
The Commons Atlas will share commons-related data visualizations, and include a directory of resources for sharing communities: best practices, strategy, and threats. “Data visualization” includes geographical maps, network maps, charts, graphs, timelines, and infographics. In the longer term, we also contemplate providing some means to create visualizations on line. (This is a substantial technical challenge, so we will start out recommending sites with data sets and tool kits).
The Austin-based CommonSpark team is using a modified agile process. Agile processes focus on short sprints that move incrementally and flexibly toward a larger goal. We have been using an online collaboration tool called Trello which greatly simplifies our work and allows us to work together both in person and remotely.
Here’s a brief outline of the process we are currently engaged in:
Create an exhaustive list of different types of people doing valuable things at the Commons Atlas website.
Identify organizations whose websites enable effective ways for users to take similar actions and explain why we think what they do works well.
Rate each item according to how valuable it is, how unique it is, how technologically easy it is to create.
Prioritize the items and identify what gets developed first, second, third, and so on.
Create a website design functional requirements document that developers can use to create the Commons Atlas website.
Choose one of the items, identify the technology that will get us there, and get it done.
Repeat steps 6 & 7 until we reach our goal.
We’re currently finishing up item #3. We will begin working on item #4 at our next work session on May 28.
Living in Austin has a great many benefits, including an abundance of green spaces, water, music, and creative people. Once we are ready we want to collaborate with the geek community which regularly stages meet ups to get important civic and community work accomplished.
We continue to seek allies to help us develop our ideas for the Commons Atlas into an exquisitely useful tool for the commons movement and the greater unnamed movement to create a livable future. We invite you to connect and collaborate and become part of the team to design, build and manage the commons that is the Commons Atlas.
CommonSpark’s founder, Ellen Friedman, will be presenting “Discover the Commons: The hidden path to a sharing renaissance” at the Earth Day festivities in Austin, Texas on April 20, 2013.
During this interactive session, participants will see the commons through a microscope for the first time and realize what was there all along. The commons are the ecological, cultural, economic, and information resources we both inherit and create that we must learn to see, protect and pass along to future generations undiminished. Please join us in Austin to learn how working together to reclaim the commons can address the critical issues of our time and spark a renaissance.
Be inspired by David Rovics at the Festival of the Commons! (see previous post for event details)