The Missouri River Dinosaur

The Missouri River Dinosaur

The pallid sturgeon is, perhaps, the least sexy fish in existence. Prehistoric, armored, and occupying the muddy recesses of slow flowing rivers, it is one of nature’s leftovers from the dinosaur era. Large at maturity, the pallid sturgeon grows between 30 and 60 inches, and can weigh upwards of 85 pounds. Consistency is the modus operandi of the this fish, which has remained relatively unchanged over the last 70 million years. The pallid sturgeon is muted, having a gray coloration—like hair later in life. The sturgeon, which can live to be 100 years old, grows white. The tail is heterocercal, resembling a shark’s tail, and its body is wrapped in thick cartilage plates. In my youth, while fishing the muddy Missouri River, if we hauled a sturgeon to the surface, we cut the line immediately to release it back to the bottom world, where it would resume sucking and slurping minnows. I often named these armored tanks General Patton or General Sherman.

The Alchemy of Collaboration

The Alchemy of Collaboration

The commons describes a social practice that unleashes people’s capacity to create things together and take their lives and livelihood into their own hands. It is a social form that has long lived in the shadows of our market culture, but which is now on the rise.

Viva la Acequia! New Mexico’s Centuries-old Water Sharing System

Viva la Acequia! New Mexico’s Centuries-old Water Sharing System

Driving down any rural highway in northern New Mexico, you are sure to come across a valley with acequias—irrigation ditches that in some cases have existed for several centuries. You might not even notice them, but someone with a sensitized eye would immediately spot the green ribbons of farmland, pasture, cottonwood and willow trees. Simple in their design, acequias move water from a common source of water—a spring or a stream—through a network of ditches to replenish fields that have been carefully tended for generations.   These community-based irrigation systems are central to traditions of life on the land that have sustained families in New Mexico for generations and inspired many newcomers to embrace the acequia culture.

A Close Look at the Impact of Pope Francis’s Views on Climate Change

A Close Look at the Impact of Pope Francis’s Views on Climate Change

The subtitle of Pope Francis’ stunning new encyclical, “‘Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home,” belies the preference of some that a pontiff not venture into economic matters—Jeb Bush, for instance. Etymologically, after all, economics is the discipline of managing a home; the encyclical’s heading therefore presents it as an economics for the world we hold in common. But what kind of economics it?

Why I Call Myself a Commoner

Why I Call Myself a Commoner

Each day I walk out of my Minneapolis house into an atmosphere protected from pollution by the Clean Air Act. As I step onto a sidewalk that was built with tax dollars for everyone, my spirits are lifted by the beauty of my neighbors’ boulevard gardens. Trees planted by people who would never sit under them shade my walk. I listen to public radio, a nonprofit service broadcast over airwaves belonging to us all, as I stroll around a lake in the park, which was protected from shoreline development by civic-minded citizens in the nineteenth century.

The park, like everything else I have mentioned so far, is a commons for which each of us is responsible.

The Rest of the Story About Greece

The Rest of the Story About Greece

In its policies toward Greece, the “Troika” — a new shorthand for the combined will of the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund — has actively and enthusiastically embraced Maggie Thatcher’s social and political philosophy, memorably captured in her chilling assertion, “There is no such thing as society.” That philosophy has found its fullest and most concrete exposition in a 2014 “competition assessment” of Greece made by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Army Vet Finds Peace in Interactive Performance

Army Vet Finds Peace in Interactive Performance

Story has always been the beating heart of theater. In Aaron Hughes’ hands, that art has been fused with one of the world’s oldest beverages, resulting in a remarkable theater piece called simply Tea.

Noam Chomsky on Saving the Commons

Noam Chomsky on Saving the Commons

Not long ago, we commemorated the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta—commemorating, but not celebrating; rather, mourning the blows it has suffered.

The first authoritative scholarly edition of Magna Carta was published by the eminent jurist William Blackstone in 1759. It was no easy task. As he wrote, “the body of the charter has been unfortunately gnawn by rats”—a comment that carries grim symbolism today, as we take up the task the rats left unfinished.

Blackstone’s edition actually includes two charters: the Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest. The former is generally regarded as the foundation of Anglo-American law—in Winston Churchill’s words, referring to its reaffirmation by Parliament in 1628, “the charter of every self-respecting man at any time in any land.” The Great Charter held that “No freeman shall be arrested or imprisoned,” or otherwise harmed, “except by the lawful judgment of his equals and according to the law of the land,” the essential sense of the doctrine of “presumption of innocence.”