Dossier

Genes, Bytes and Emissions: To Whom Does the World Belong?

An important addition to the growing international dialogue about the commons can be found in the new anthology, Genes, Bytes and Emissions: To Whom Does the World Belong? (discussed in this previous blog post). Recently released in German, the essays in this book are now available online in English.

The book was edited by Silke Helfrich and published by the Heinrich Boell Foundation; Helfrich is the former director of the Foundation’s Mexico City office, which hosted a major conference, Citizenship and Commons, in December 2006. The collection, whose title in English is To Whom Does the World Belong? offers a thoughtful and provocative array of viewpoints on the commons.

Silke Helfrich: Commons: The Network of Life and Creativity (7 pages, pdf, 205KB)
In her introduction Silke Helfrich gives a review of the commons debate as laid out in the Spanish and German anthology published recently by the Heinrich Boelll Foundation and references most of the articles of this web-dossier.

David Bollier: The Commons: A Neglected Sector of Wealth-Creation (8 pages, pdf, 250KB)
In his introductory essay, David Bollier highlights the extent to which the commons – meaning natural, social and cultural resources – are the wealth of us all.

Antonio Lafuente: The Four Realms of the Commons (4 pages, pdf, 200KB)
Antonio Lafuente points out the plurality, elusiveness and historical nature of common goods as they appear in four realms: our body, the environment, cities and digital spaces.

José Esteban Castro: Commons and Citizenship: The Contradictions of an Unfolding Relationship (10 pages, pdf, 280KB)
Esteban Castro emphasizes the importance of the individual within various communities, pointing out the emancipatory potential of the commons. He argues that the commons debate is capable of adding a new dimension to the concept of citizenship.

Yochai Benkler: The Political Economy of Commons (5 pages, pdf, 670KB)
Yochai Benkler defines the structure of the information commons, its sustainability, and its importance for democracy and individual freedom.

Elinor Ostrom: Governing a Commons from a Citizen’s Perspective (9 pages, pdf, 270KB)
Elinor Ostrom points out that citizens play an “essential role in the governance of common pool resources and that efforts to turn over all of the responsibility for governing these resources to external experts are not likely to protect them in the long run.” Thus, when we talk about commons, we must think of them in relation to their communities, to commoners, and to a new kind of citizenship.

Achim Lerch: The Tragedy of the “Tragedy of the Commons” (9 pages, pdf, 370KB)
Achim Lerch points out the similarities and differences between various property regimes, criticizing the famous metaphor of Garrett Hardin, the so called “Tragedy of the Commons”. He distinguishes between defined property rules and open access regimes and argues that overuse is not a tragedy of common property structures but rather a tragedy of open access to no man’s land.

Richard Stallman: The Right to Read (4 pages, pdf, 180KB)
In his short story, Richard Stallman describes a future in which the reading and lending of digitalized books is highly restricted – illustrating some ongoing processes of the enclosure of cultural techniques by intellectual monopoly rights.

Silvia Ribeiro and Pat Mooney: The New Enclosures of the Mind (13 pages, pdf, 430KB)
New technologies create new possibilities to enclose the commons. Mooney and Ribeiro show that technological progress enables those who are interested to even enclose our ability to judge.

Jean Pierre Leroy: The Guardians of Our Future: Territorial Management in Gurupá (5 pages, pdf, 190KB)
There are plenty of possibilities for the sustainable management of natural common pool resources. Pierre Leroy from Brazil describes the struggle to arrange rights to access and use of natural and cultural resources within the Amazon community of Gurupá (Pará, Brazil) in a fair manner, by making use of (a combination of) different property regimes

Leticia Merino: The Forestry Communities of Mexico (3 pages, pdf, 160KB)
Leticia Merino critically reflects on the various forms of managing Mexican forests. She shows that – given certain political and economic conditions- community based resource management may produce good results.

Sunita Narain: When Markets do Work for People (2 pages, pdf, 160KB)
Sunita Narain reports on how Indian village communities are successfully overcoming the acute water shortage and ultimately ensuring that “markets truly work for the people” by organizing themselves.

Michael Earle: Fishing in the Commons (3 pages, pdf, 170KB)
Michael Earle assesses the numerous attempts at the regulation of fishing that have already been “tried” or are on the table. There seem to be few promising solutions to overfishing in the world’s oceans. The global fish stocks are a global commons, which easily escape the patterns of local or national resources management.

Jamie Metzl: Brave New World War (5 pages, pdf, 140KB)
Jamie Metzl examines the ethical and moral reasons for governments to set limits on the manipulation of human genetic resources.

Lisa Thalheim: Trusted Computing (3 pages, pdf, 170KB)
Lisa Thalheim outlines how the existence and use of Trusted Computing technology can weaken our individual options vis-à-vis the computer and media industry. Technology may be a powerful tool to enclose the commons.

Silke Helfrich: For the Liberation of Cyberspace, We Need You to Join Us. Interview with Richard Stallman (3 pages, pdf, 170KB)
Richard Stallman was the first to develop free licenses for software and other content. As the founder of the Free Software Movement he talks about the achievements of the movement as well as the challenges ahead. Free Software is a new commons built from the bottom up.

Silke Helfrich and Jörg Haas: The Commons: A New Narrative for Our Times (15 pages, pdf, 530KB)
An essay that reviews some of the key elements of commons theory and presents some ideas about the political and strategic reach of the commons both as a political perspective and praxis.

Christian Siefkes: The Commons of the Future – Building Blocks for a Commons-based Society (6 pages, pdf, 250KB)
Christian Siefkes discusses the components of a commons-based society. Such a society “springs from numerous communities” – communities “that make and develop their own rules to create, preserve, and use commons.”

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