While the official Rio+20 environmental summit will surely be a bust, reaffirming the supposed power of markets to solve our planetary eco-crises, the alternative People’s Summit has made some progress toward positive outcomes. A wide variety of civil society groups from around the world has been meeting since November 2011 to try to hammer out a shared vision that addresses the theme, “Capitalist Crisis, Social and Environmental Justice.”
The dialogues seek not only to provide a critique of what’s wrong and needs fixing, but to suggest some coherent themes and proposals for moving forward. I am pleased to report that one of four short working documents produced by the so-called Dialogue Platform of the Thematic Social Forum (TSF) sees great promise in reclaiming the commons.
My colleague Silke Helfrich has been involved in these proceedings, participating in group discussions that occurred in Porto Alegre in January and in Rio de Janeiro in May. She shared her insights with me from her blog, and will be attending the People’s Summit in Rio in about two weeks. (See also her excellent presentation about how the commons can help us navigate the coming "Great Transition.")
The People’s Summit bills its gathering as “part of a historical process of accumulation and convergence of local, regional and global struggles, that have anti-capitalist, classist, anti-racist, anti-patriarchal and anti-homophobic political frames.” For a fairly short document that emerged from a very diverse group, the Dialogue Platform’s statement on the commons is remarkably deep and subtle. It is clear to these activists that the problem is not just misguided policies and economic analysis; it involves fallacious mental maps, epistemological categories and modernity itself.
I am impressed that a large group of this sort could agree on such a statement, and show such depth of understanding about the commons and its role in building a better future. Here is the Dialogue Platform’s statement: