For 30 years, I was a television reporter, roaming the world to investigate stories that needed to be told and the public deserved to understand. The last stop along that journey was a return to the cradle that helped launch me in journalism: WJLA-TV in Washington. It was, at first, a sweet homecoming. I worked […]
The Kingdom of Mustang, one of the last remaining sanctuaries of ancient Tibetan Buddhist culture, is located on the north-central border of Nepal and Tibet. From September 15 to October 1, 2010, a small group of trekkers will follow the ancient trails of trade marked by mani walls, chortens and monasteries on our way to Lo Manthang, the walled capital of Mustang, where the King of Mustang continues to reign over this tiny Tibetan Buddhist kingdom.
Dr. Terri Homan: “Six months ago I had never heard of the commons. Perhaps the starting point for a world movement is spreading awareness, so there are more banner-carriers to work toward the change in consciousness that is required. Unless a critical mass of world citizens demand change, it is too easy for the rest to look away." Terri is a physician in the Chicago area, one of 49 people from four continents who enrolled in Common Course: An Introduction to the Global Commons. The four-week program consisted of readings, on-line discussions and weekly conference calls. On one occasion economist James Quilligan joined as a guest speaker.
The commons is the main focus of a group of collaborators from around the world called Commons Action for the United Nations. We are bringing awareness of our shared ecological and social resources— our commons—to UN policy and programs. Our goal is to highlight the necessity of commoning processes, where people at local levels claim sovereignty over the resources they depend on for their livelihoods and quality of life.
What might the world look like if governments and public policy actively helped people create and maintain their own commons? A major international conference hopes to find some preliminary answers at an historic gathering in Berlin, Germany, from October 31 to November 2, 2010.
The recent BP oil spill was a huge disaster, yet the Gulf of Mexico has long been an abused ecosystem. For decades, the Mississippi River has drained pollutants into the Gulf from nitrogen rich cornfields, chemically-treated golf courses, oil-polluted parking lots and sewage runoff. The Gulf is home to a huge and aging oil/chemicals infrastructure, including nearly 4,000 drilling and production platforms. Critical habitat for shrimp and fish is jammed together with heavy industry. Believing they need both industry and habitat, the loyalties of the local people are often conflicted: their voices often silenced. To re-energize them, new ideas are needed.
The term may be unfamiliar, but the idea has been around for centuries. The commons is a new use of an old word, meaning “what we share”—and it offers fresh hope for a saner, safer, more enjoyable future. The commons refers to a wealth of valuable assets that belong to everyone. These range from clean air to wildlife preserves; from the judicial system to the Internet. Some are bestowed to us by nature; others are the product of cooperative human creativity. Certain elements of the commons are entirely new—think of Wikipedia. Others are centuries old—like colorful words and phrases from all the world’s languages. Anyone can use the commons, so long as there is enough left for everyone else. This is why finite commons, such as natural resources, must be sustainably and equitably managed.
On a gorgeous sunny morning the Kosmos team drove 30 minutes south to meet new economist Susan Witt on the picturesque grounds of the community land trust in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. She greeted us at the car and showed us inside the New Economics Institute’s rustic office building to a light-filled room with rows of bookshelves. Susan co-founded the BerkShares local currency program in 2006 and has watched as this experiment in community empowerment has garnered international media attention. Since putting the currency into circulation, the BerkShares website has received more than 7 million hits—an impressive number even before you consider that the institute has a staff of just three. About $2.6M BerkShares are invigorating the financial bloodstream of the Berkshires, Susan’s home region, and the program’s goal is steadfastly being realized. BerkShares provides a model to other progressive communities around the world that want to establish their own more self-sufficient, independent, resilient and sustainable economies.
When I received an invitation to tell my story of how I got involved in teaching and why I spread the word about Kosmos, I was greatly honored but also very apprehensive. I am a professional translator/interpreter and a language instructor and only write sporadically for a blog that some of my former students started. But, like so many other times in my life, I closed my eyes and leapt.
Myanmar—Burma—is unlike anyplace I have seen before, even in extensive travels on four continents. It’s a land of contradictions, breathtakingly beautiful and vibrant, yet poor and isolated. A former British colony, and under Japanese occupation during the second World War, the country has been run by a military dictatorship since 1962, and has been virtually closed to interaction with the outside world.
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