As promised, I’m always searching for guest reviewers and I’m very pleased to present this review by Andy Terrell, late of Destinations Booksellers and a prime mover in the local movement to educate consumers about why maintaining a vibrant, independent business community is in everyone’s self-interest.
All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons by Jay Walljasper
- Commons – What we share. Creations of both nature and society that belong to all of us equally and should be preserved and maintained for future generations.
Jay Walljasper’s book, All That We Share, is a look at the possibilities of a commons-based society whereby the economy, political culture and community life revolves around the idea that so much of what we have can be shared by all instead of being privatized for profit or other types of gain. That we can shift away from the market-based system domination of today and, instead, allowing for the same type of emphasis on social justice, environmental issues and citizen participation in our democratic process. Walljasper makes the point that “Market-based solutions would be valuable tools in a commons-based society, as long as they do not undermine the workings of the commons itself.”
Through profiles, articles and opinion, Walljasper has brought together some of the best commons thinkers from around the world to explain what the commons mean, how a true commons-based society can be achieved and how to make the commons mean something to everyone no matter their ideology. We hear from intellects such as Robert Reich, Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom and Robert Kennedy, Jr, activists like Kim Klein and Julie Ristau and ordinary people working every day to make a difference in their communities.
What are the commons? You might be surprised at what that term encompasses. Parks, streets, air and water, museums, social security, hunting and fishing, the Internet, public education, police protection and dancing. These are just a few of the things that we share, yet we sometimes forget the importance of them.
Walljasper shows that there are so many ways that everyone can pitch in to help jump start a commons-based society. It doesn’t have to be over-the-top, like setting furniture in a street to slow down speeding cars as was done in one city in the Netherlands. It can be very simple…pick up trash in your neighborhood. Organize a block party, get to know your neighbors, smile or greet people you pass on the street, spend some time on the front porch instead of on the deck in the back. These are just a few of the very simple ways to start a commons-based society according to Walljasper.
From a history of the commons, how it has evolved and what’s being done today, Walljasper’s point seems to be this – focus on what we own, advocate to take back those commons that have been privatized and understand that not every problem in society has a market solution. Many problems can be solved with a people solution.
Certain colleges and universities are adopting this book for introductory classes. I see that as a good sign and a portent that coming generations will demonstrate greater responsibility for their own futures. Since I intend to live in that future, this pleases me very much.
Give me your thoughts on the topic in the comments section below and have a great weekend.