Commons Manifesto: Strengthen the Commons – Now!

A thesis paper, drafted during the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s interdisciplinary political salons, seeks to capture the complexity and importance of natural and knowledge commons. The manifesto, written jointly by the salon’s attendees and lead by Silke Helfrich, is a rallying call for the public to defend and strengthen these invaluable resources. Because such efforts build on the small contributions of many, David Bollier and I worked closely with Silke to translate the text into English in hopes of sharing the salon’s results with a wider audience.

Strengthen the Commons. Now!

”Commons are institutional spaces in which we are free.” – Yochai Benkler

Over the last two hundred years, the explosion of knowledge, technology, and productivity has enabled an unprecedented increase of private wealth. This has improved our quality of life in numerous ways. At the same time, however, we have permitted the depletion of resources and the dwindling of societal wealth. This is brought to our attention by current, interrelated crises in finance, the economy, nutrition, energy, and in the fundamental ecological systems of life.

These crises are sharpening our awareness of the existence and importance of the commons. Natural commons are necessary for our survival, social commons ensure social cohesion, and cultural commons enable us to evolve as individuals. It is imperative that we focus our personal creativity, talents and enthusiasm to protect and increase our social wealth and natural commons. This will required an eye on the goal to change some basic structures of politics, economics, and society.

More social prosperity instead of more gross domestic product!

When the economic growth curve drops and the GDP sinks, it seems threatening to us. Yet appearances deceive. The GDP merely maps production figures and monetary flows without regard for their ecological or social value; such numbers do not measure the things we truly need to live, they may simply count their destruction. Social prosperity cannot be measured through such means. A reduction in the GDP does not necessarily signal a reduction in the real wealth of a society. To recognize this fact widens our perspective and opens the door for new types of solutions.

The commons can help us overcome the crisis, but it requires systematic advocacy. This is our contribution to give the commons a voice.

What are the commons and why are they are significant? … to the complete Manifesto (pdf).

(Manifesto posted by Silke Helfrich on Commonsblog. Image: “Network of works produced in the ccMixter community” by Giorgos Cheliotis et. al. in Visualizations of remix culture from Remix Culture: Creative Reuse and the Licensing of Digital Media in Online Communities / CC BY 3.0)

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