The eco-commons offers a new way to tell an old story of people cooperating in their living, working relations and in their respectful interconnection with their habitat. This way of life was called the commons. It was local, self-governing, and relatively equitable. To this, we’ve added the eco to accentuate our 21st century need to rebalance our intrinsic relationship with the earth.
Commoning (living cooperatively) is what humans inherently do as a species. We need each other to survive. It is only in recent times that we’ve afforded this distorted social Darwinian idea of “survival of the fittest.” This implies humans are fundamentally selfish and competitive rather than empathic and cooperative. This may serve neoliberal capitalism but most of us humans need each other and to cooperate on more things than not. Eco-commoning seeks to lift up all this “informal” economic activity to again be the mainstream. Not only will it make us happier but is essential to us 7 billion humans figuring out how to coexist on this finite planet.
To seek this sustainable future we need language and metaphors to inspire us. Cognitive linguist George Lakoff says “metaphorical concepts… structure our present reality. New metaphors have the power to create a new reality.” (Lent, 2017: 23) We believe the eco-commons metaphor inspires this new reality. To be a commoner is not a putdown but a desired identity. To be engaged in commoning means your life is full of cooperative and sustainable activities. As mentioned, an eco-commons gives focus to a local, self-governing, equitable and earth-friendly way-of-life.
We’ve tried to imagine the eco-commons as a down-to-earth way-of-life.
Being down-to-earth is a good place to start for a number of reasons. First, in popular language to be down-to-earth means you are easy going, practical, not aloof. We want to welcome folks into an idea that feels grounded and relevant to how they want to live their lives. Second, it conveys an ecological ethic of concern for planetary wellbeing. In these times, it supports the idea that all things are connected in a web of life that needs to be mimicked or related to, rather than seeking to control it. We need to tame our homo deus ego in favour of mindful awe and respect for this wonderous evolutionary journey we are part of. Third, it opens us to spiritual pondering about the Great Mystery of it all. Is there a divine presence in it all or is it just expanding cellular complexity over all these eons? For those imaging a divine presence is it pantheistic (God is everything) or pan-en-theistic (God in everything), or a monotheistic controlling God? With our great leaps forward in recent scientific awareness does this answer these questions or just create more?
Bringing the conversation back to earth, how do we live together on this planetary home in a sustainable, peaceful, and meaningful way? In academia we might call this our social ethics or more simply our way-of-life. How do I live my down-to-earth ideals in all aspects of day-to-day life? How we relate to each other, how we get the basics of life, how we organize ourselves, what we celebrate and provides meaning to our lives, are elements of our way-of-life.
For the most part these are patterned via language into our family and community upbringing. They are a given until something disrupts us and we are forced to look more closely at the implications of how we are living our lives. If we can muster the courage to evaluate and change these patterns we can be part of a small evolutionary step towards something different, and hopefully better.
While this change is possible, the scale of change now needed, in a short amount of time, is daunting. With the explosion of global communications and the sharing of information the global community can now more fully see the impacts of inequality on human wellbeing and that we’ve greatly overtaxed the earth’s ability to sustain us all. Those who have concentrated the power and wealth, primarily through limited-liability transnational corporations, are not easily going to offer change. Nor are they, and at least half the world’s population, who benefit from a high-energy carbon economy, going to easily transition to a post-carbon economy without some major push. Bringing us again to how we change our ways-of-life to make thing equitable and sustainable. Are my little efforts going to make a difference with such big problems?
Shifting to an eco-commons: down-to-earth way-of-life may seem distant from our present reality but we believe it has the conceptual power to help us transition to collaborative economic and social organization. As many of experiment with this changed worldview we recognize that literally millions of groups around the world are already chasing this difference. (see Paul Hawken: Blessed Unrest). We’ve chosen the eco-commons language to represent our efforts because we believe its old/new metaphor and grounded experience works in this time.
In this website, we’d like to explore these ideas and link to others with similar ethics. We are inviting your interest and the sharing of your experience with us. We live by the Margaret Mead saying: A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.