I gave the following talk at the Caux Forum for Human Security in Montreux, Switzerland, on July 13, 2011.
The commons is, at its core, a very old – and a very new, recently rediscovered – system of governance for managing resources. It has deep roots in history as a system of self-provisioning and mutual support. It is also a way of being a human being that goes beyond the selfish, rational, utility-maximizing model of homo economicus that economists say we are. The commons presumes that humans are more complex, and that more holistic, humane types of human behavior can be “designed into” our governance institutions.
In its largest sense, the commons is about stewardship of the things that we own in common as human beings. It’s about ensuring that we protect them and pass them on, undiminished, to future generations.
Let me add, the commons is also a growing trans-national movement that manifests itself in many different ways. The commons extends from cyberspace to the many commons of agro-ecological knowledge managed by indigenous peoples. It reaches from the world’s city squares and parks that are the cradles of community, to the vast repositories of information and creative works that must be shared if they are to be kept alive.