The cultural commons

Chet Bowers has kindly let me post his essay on education and the commons.

To save ecosystems and to serve humanity, we must defend, extend and deepen the commons...see what you think and spread the world, a world behind fences is a world with cancer....there is a cure. Most policy makers advocate taking more of the poison

Title: Revitalizing the Cultural Commons in an Era of Political
and Ecological Uncertainties

Author: Chet Bowers, Eugene, OR.

The “commons” and “enclosure” are two words that should frame the issues being addressed by environmentalists, educators, politicians, and citizens concerned about the deepening ecological crises. These words refer to fundamental relationships that existed within human communities and between humans and the natural environment even before the beginning of religions and myths of origins. The significance of the commons has become even more critical today as economic globalization is rapidly enclosing the diversity of the world’s commons, forcing more people to become participants in a money economy at the very time that the degradation of natural systems threaten species with extinction, and when the local economies that have a smaller ecological footprint are being overtaken by capitalist economies that benefit the few while further impoverishing the many.
The commons are now gaining the attention of academics, but to most of them the commons refers only to those aspects of the environment that have not been privatized, turned into a commodity, or require participating in the money economy. There are now over14,000 scholarly articles on the environmental commons written by academics listed in the Digital Library of the Commons—and there are an increasing number of conferences focused on how the environmental commons are being enclosed by advances in techno-science and market forces. For the first humans living in the savannahs of what we now call Africa, the environmental commons included the water, plants, animals, and the land—and the access and use was available to all members of the group. What is seldom discussed by academics, and not at all by today’s politicians, are the cultural commons. Indeed, the phrase “cultural commons” has only recently come into our vocabulary—even though what it refers to were the cultural practices that began with the first humans—spoken language, medicinal knowledge of plants, narratives, ceremonies, strategies for cooperating in the hunt, art, norms governing marriage, behaviors that violated the community’s moral expectations, and so forth. In effect, the cultural commons includes what we more conventionally think of as culture. And just as all cultural beliefs and practices have an impact on the viability of the natural environment, the distinction I am introducing by using the two phrases of “cultural commons” and the “environmental commons” should be understood as the former being nested in the latter—indeed, dependent upon the viability of the latter.
As mentioned at the outset, the current way of interpreting the commons to mean only the environment has the effect of marginalizing an awareness of the today’s cultural commons—including the many ways the cultural commons contribute to a smaller ecological footprint. By overlooking the cultural commons, the different forces of enclosure that should be resisted are being ignored. Readers may wonder why the words culture and community are not used. The reason is that these more familiar words lack the inherent tension that exists between the cultural and environmental commons, and the forces of enclosure. The words commons and enclosure are like two sides of the same coin—one side cannot be fully understood without an awareness of the other side. The coin metaphor is limited however as the forces of enclosure have from the beginning threatened access to both the cultural and environmental commons. The early introduction of status systems, social hierarchies, gender and racial biases, privatizing, monetizing, commoditizing, linguistic silences, ideologies, and so forth continually threaten what members of the community share in common—both in terms of the symbolic culture and in sharing the life sustaining characteristics of the natural environment. The word “enclosure” is often associated with the enclosure movement in England that coincided with the rise of the Industrial Revolution. This involved the abolishment of communal rights to pasture flocks and for free access and use of the natural resources of the untilled portions of the lord’s estate; it also involved evicting the peasants thus forcing them to become wage earners. What is often overlooked in associating enclosure with the environmental commons is that many of the communal and intergenerational traditions of the peasants relating to food, medicinal knowledge, crafts, ceremonies, norms governing moral relationships, and so forth, were also lost as the people were transformed into a work force that had to adapt to the requirements of the industrial system of production and consumption.
While the enclosure movement in England provides a powerful analogy for understanding today’s incessant efforts of market liberals to commodify every imaginable aspect of the environmental and cultural commons, associating the process of enclosure with transforming what is freely shared among the members of the community into a market relationship leads to a limited understanding of the other forces of enclosure. Enclosure can also be associated with different forms of loss that further undermine the traditions of community self-reliance. These may take the form of words and narratives that have been lost to the vocabulary of the community, such as “wisdom” which has now been displaced by “data” and “information” , and “privacy” which is now subordinated to fighting “terrorism”. Other examples of enclosure or loss of what was previously shared in common include craft knowledge that is being replaced by computer driven machines, the narratives of labor and civil rights struggles that are forgotten or repressed out of fear of the further outsourcing of jobs. Enclosure, when understood as a loss and thus as a transformation in the community’s traditions of self-sufficiency and mutual support, also takes place through the silences—including what is no longer remembered or thought significant. The loss of memory then impacts the people’s ability to think critically about what needs to be conserved and what need to be changed—which is essential to local democracy. Given the adverse ecological impact of a consumer dependent culture, it is important to recognize the enclosure of a wide range of intergenerational knowledge that is less dependent upon consumerism --ranging from the preparation of food, craft knowledge, creative arts, ceremonies, civil liberties (particularly relevant in our culture) to language itself.
The continual efforts to intergenerationally renew the traditions of the cultural commons (some of which were and still are sources of injustice and environmentally destructive practices) are very much related to the challenges facing today’s communities. The market liberal ideology now being promoted on a global scale, as Naomi Klein documents in her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007), is magnifying the double bind where the intergenerational knowledge and skills that enabled people to live less consumer dependent and less environmentally destructive lives is being replaced by the myth of progress and the seductions of a consumer lifestyle that fewer and fewer people will be able to afford—especially as the scarcities caused by a rapidly degraded environment raises the cost of basic food and shelter needed to sustain daily life.
As the focus of today’s politicians and community leaders should be on revitalizing the local cultural commons as a way of reducing our ecological footprint, it is necessary to identify the daily manifestations of the cultural commons that people participate in largely at a taken for granted state of awareness. It is also be necessary to discuss the many ways in which the local commons are being enclosed in ways that go beyond the earlier (and still existing) forms of enclosure that were based on gender, ethnic, class, and linguistic differences. People are empowered by the traditions of the cultural commons when they rely upon the many forms of intergenerational knowledge of how to grow, prepare and preserve food, when they expect that their lives will be protected by habeas corpus and the rights guaranteed in the Constitution, when they engage in local decision making about conserving the environmental commons and about expanding on the social justice achievements of the past, when they participate in the expressive arts –including ceremonies and narratives that lead to a sense of being part of a moral and interdependent community, when they engage others in the games and crafts, and learn to think within the language of the community into which they are born, and so forth. The cultural commons exist in every community, and are as diverse as the world’s cultures.
However, we should avoid romanticizing the cultural commons, as the narratives and daily practices may be based on intergenerational traditions that exclude and exploit groups based on gender, class, ethnic, religious differences. The traditions of racial and gender discrimination were (and still are) part of the cultural commons of many communities across America, just as honor killings and child brides are still part of the cultural commons of many Middle Eastern cultures. The vocabulary that carries forward the patterns of thinking of the past, and is largely taken for granted even by an environmentalists such as when E. O Wilson refers to the brain as a machine (which goes back the mechanistic patterns of thinking originating in the early days of Western science), also needs to be understood as part of the cultural commons. Even when the cultural commons perpetuate inequities and even environmentally destructive practices, there may be other aspects of the local cultural commons that are the basis of a less consumer dependent lifestyle. Examples that easily come to mind are the rich traditions of folk music and story telling that are part of the cultural commons in parts of the country that were also deeply racists. Therefore. it is specially important to recognize what needs to be conserved and intergenerationally renewed, and what needs to be reformed or entirely abandoned.
Today’s political discourse is silent about how the forms of enclosure are forcing people to become more dependent upon a money economy in an era of outsourcing, downsizing, and automation. Even though some democrats are questioning the market liberal inspired re-ordering of the nation’s previous commitment to address the needs of the poor and marginalized, they fail to take account of how public schools and universities perpetuate the same deep cultural assumptions that underlie the modern forms of enclosure. Nor are they addressing the fundamental life-threatening changes taking place in the natural systems such as how the chemistry of the world’s oceans are becoming more acidic—thus threatening the viability of marine ecosystems that are the basis of the food chain. While scientists are reporting on how global warming is affecting the growing season in different regions of the world, the spread of droughts, the melting of glaciers that are the source of water for hundreds of millions of people living in the valleys below—all of which impact the viability of local economies, including the cultural commons that have been adapted to the sustaining characteristics of the bioregion, the politicians remain silent. This silence represents yet another form of enclosure of local decision making about the critical issues that are threatening the traditions of community self-sufficiency.
Critical to reducing the ecological footprint of humans is the need to sustain the diversity of the world’s cultural and environmental commons. A recent development that makes this especially difficult is the way in which the computers are being promoted on a global basis without any awareness of the form of individualism reinforced by this technology—or the forms of intergenerational knowledge and relationships that cannot be digitized. Another major reason that conserving what remains of the world’s diversity of cultural and environmental commons will be especially difficult can be traced to what is being taught in public schools and universities—which will be discussed later. A source of hope is that there are ongoing efforts to limit the forces of enclosure. For example, conserving social justice traditions are being addressed by local groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, by groups working with the homeless and segments of the community lacking food security. Other traditions of the cultural commons are being renewed by artists who are mentoring youth living on the streets; by parents, restaurant chefs, and other groups in the slow food movement that are working to pass on the traditions of eating locally grown food rather than being dependent upon industrial food transported an average of over 1500 miles; by various forms of volunteerism in helping the sick, poor, and elderly to improve the quality of their daily lives, and by immigrants who continue, in their condition of mutually shared scarcity, their traditions of mutual support—including their indigenous gardens.
The variety of groups working to revitalize the environmental and cultural commons can be documented by a survey of activists in almost any community in North America. In many areas of the cultural commons, the revitalization is being done by older people who have retired and are finding new interests and talents in the various expressive arts and in working in one of the traditions of craft knowledge. Professionals from a variety of specializations are increasingly working to strengthen other traditions of the cultural commons—often by working in non-monetized relationships. There are thousands of books that address how to revitalize different aspects of the cultural and environmental commons—on a local and practical basis. Unfortunately, the influence of these efforts to renew the local cultural commons has not reversed the expansion of the markets, including the new forms of enclosure that are increasing people’s dependence upon what has to be purchased. The connections between the processes of enclosure and the rise of poverty and environmental destruction can be seen in the current level of credit-card indebtedness , the increasing number of bankruptcies and people dependent upon local food banks, the amount of waste going into the local land fills, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere, the number of hours that youth and adults spend on computer gains and in cell phone conversations .
The current threat to the cultural and environmental commons brings us back to one of the problems identified at the outset: namely, that the importance of commons are not understood by most students who graduate from public schools and universities. Aside from the environmental commons that students encounter in their science and environmental education classes, and which do not usually engage students in a critical examination of the cultural assumptions that underlie behaviors and policies that degrade the local and global ecosystems, the nature of the cultural commons is one of the most critical areas of silence in their formal education. The questions thus become: what are the reasons for students graduating from public schools and universities without a knowledge of how to reduce their dependence upon a industrial/consumer dependent lifestyle? Why do the cultural forces of enclosure continue to dominate in spite of the efforts of writers such as Wendell Berry, Vandana Shiva, Barbara Kingsolver, and even religious texts that are calling attention to the need to conserve the bio-diversity of God’s creation? Why do the efforts of people working to find less carbon producing approaches to food, shelter, and transportation go largely unnoticed by the majority of graduates ? As more of the Baby Boom generation discover that their individually managed 401K plan (which is part of strategy of corporations for increasing profits) will be inadequate for their retirement years, the failure of public schools and universities to educate them about how the local cultural commons represent alternatives to a life style dependent upon a money economy will take on more significance. These are the questions that public school teachers and university faculty should be considering.
Outside of the environmental sciences, where students are engaged in more activist efforts to conserve what remains of the local biodiversity, the small number of faculty in the social sciences, humanities, and in some professional schools are beginning to address the ecological crises by adding to their courses the writings of environmentalists such as Aldo Leopold, Wendell Berry, Berry Lopez, Rachel Carson, Vandana Shiva, and so on. These reading are important because they increase student awareness of the need to live in more sustainable relationships with natural systems. Unfortunately, they do not provide students with the practical knowledge of sustainable living practices they will need after graduation. In effect, the efforts of local groups to revitalize both the local cultural and environmental commons are not being passed on to students. There are several reasons for this, with the major one being that most faculty continue to think and teach within the discipline they learned from their graduate school experience and from colleagues in the discipline. Another reason is that practical knowledge is still looked upon by most academics in the social sciences and humanities as less important than the theory-based knowledge required in order to publish in the scholarly journals of their discipline (which is essential for promotion and acquiring tenure).
There is a more profound reason that students graduate from public schools and universities without an explicit knowledge of the local cultural commons, as well as knowledge of the world’s diversity of cultural commons that are being integrated into the global economy by market liberal ideologues--including the true-believers in the Chicago School of economics. In effect, students are left largely ignorant of the interconnections between the various forms of enclosure of the cultural commons and the increased vulnerability people are experiencing as governments and corporations pursue their efforts to globalize a free market economy. There is another problem that is even more difficult to recognize because it is rooted in linguistic traditions that are still taken for granted. Most students graduate with a distinct bias that prevents them from taking seriously the intergenerational knowledge, skills, and patterns of mutual support that sustain the local cultural commons. This bias is passed on in the language that students acquire as they are socialized to think within the language community of public school teachers and professors. The sources of the bias are critical to understanding why most students, and many faculty, take for granted the same cultural assumptions that gave conceptual direction and moral legitimacy to the Industrial Revolution. Understanding how the language continues to frame current ways of thinking, even supposedly cutting edge thinking, in terms of the cultural assumptions that were constituted before there was an awareness of environmental limits and the importance of adapting the cultural and environmental commons to what could be environmentally sustained, brings us to the important question of what educational reforms now need to be undertaken.
There are several reasons that make it difficult for market liberal and social justice liberal professors (even those who are adding environmental writers to their courses) to recognize the cultural assumptions that frame their taken for granted patterns of thinking. One of these difficulties is the widely held idea that language is a conduit in a sender/receive process of communication. Accepting this view of language, as I have pointed out in earlier essays, is essential to sustaining the myths that the rational process is uninfluenced by the taken for granted assumptions of the culture, and that objective data is obtained through observation and systems of measurement conducted by individuals who are able rid themselves of all cultural influences—including the metaphorically based language they rely upon to report their findings and to communicate with colleagues. How this conduit view of language sustains the myth of objective knowledge can be seen in how highly acclaimed scientists ignore the many ways culture influences thought, behaviors, and the silences that are ignored. The following predictions are examples of how the importance of cultural influences are ignored: Hans Moravec’s prediction that computers represent the next stage in the process of evolution, Gregory Stock’s prediction that computers are part of the process of natural selection that will lead to a global consciousness (and thus the elimination of the world’s diversity of languages—which would be a disaster), and Francis Crick’s prediction that scientists will shortly understand the nature of consciousness—and why some brains, which he refers to as machines, lead to various forms of creativity. Market liberals such as Milton Friedman, and his many followers, are also misled by the conduit view of language into ignoring differences in cultural ways of knowing—which leads them to promote the competitive lifestyle of the free enterprise system as the panacea for addressing the world’s problems. Examples of how the conduit view of language influences other disciplines and professional schools can easily be cited. The most egregious is the efforts of American and Canadian educators to promote the idea in Third World cultures that educational reforms should be based on the recognition that students learn best when they construct their own knowledge—which would have the effect of further undermining the intergenerational knowledge and skills that are the basis of the local cultural commons.
Another reason that most students graduate with the belief that the industrial/consumer dependent culture represents the future, and that the intergenerational knowledge of the local community represents the backwardness of tradition, is that the metaphorical nature of the language that is so much a part of their taken for granted patterns of thinking carries forward the misconceptions of earlier generations who were influenced by the assumptions of Western philosophers and social theorists—particularly the Enlightenment thinkers and their followers such as John Dewey, Milton Friedman, George Lakoff, and the many techno-scientists who are turning our genes, sources of food, healing practices, communication and entertainment into commodities that are, when the benefits are compared to the losses, both environmentally disruptive and sources of impoverishment for the majority of the world’s population.
The conduit view of language taken for granted by most academics hides the metaphorical layered nature of language, especially how the current meaning of words were framed by the choice of analogies made by earlier theorists who were unaware of different cultural ways of knowing, ecological limits, and that the cultural commons represented alternatives to a consumer dependent lifestyle. The theorists who succeeded in framing through their choice of analogies how much of our vocabulary is understood and used today anticipated what has become the mantra of today’s political leaders who advocate a continual process of change. That is, they shared the same assumptions that equated change with progress, and like both today’s market and social justice liberals, they gave little attention to what needs to be conserved beyond the dynamics of change itself. The result is that the analogies settled upon by Enlightenment theorists continue to frame the meaning of such words as individualism, tradition, conserving, and intergenerational knowledge. In short, the key words (metaphors) essential to a more balanced understanding of tradition, conserving, and intergenerational knowledge, non-monetized skills, and values-- which are essential to becoming aware of the cultural commons that people participate in as part of everyday life—carry forward the biases of the Enlightenment thinkers and their present-day followers. As the industrial/consumer culture sustains the current addiction for acquiring the latest cell phone, digital camera, and so forth, few youth are concerned about the silences and biases perpetuated in the metaphorical language that is being reinforced in classrooms.
There is another issue that has particular relevance to the discussion of why the enclosure of the cultural commons is being ignored. Basically, it has to do with how an educational process that privileges print over face to face communication contributes to relying upon abstractions that divert awareness from the many dimensions of embodied/culturally mediated experience—which include memory, meaning, imagination, values, intentionality, self-identity, moral reciprocity (or lack of it), physical sensations, and the need to give expression to these experiences. These aspects of embodied/culturally mediated experience always take place within a context of relationships—with others and with the environment.
Not only does print- based storage and communication reinforce a conduit view of language, marginalize awareness of local contexts and tacit understandings, and carry forward the analogies of earlier thinkers who framed the meaning of the words encountered on the page, it also has the effect of reducing awareness of one’s embodied experience in the cultural commons—which involve relationships, interdependencies, awakening of personal interests, development of talents and skills, and moral reciprocity that is the glue of community. And when participating in the cultural commons is taken for granted, and thus below the level of conscious awareness, there is no real basis for comparing experiences in the industrial/consumer dependent culture with experiences in the cultural commons. In effect, the individual will move between the two sub-cultures and view them as seamless when the latter is actually creating new forms of dependencies and impoverishment. The lack of awareness that the two cultures has profoundly different implications for the quality of daily life, and for achieving an ecologically sustainable future, leads in turn to a state of indifference to the further enclosing of both the cultural and environmental commons. Evidence of this can be seen in how most Americans accepted the recent enclosure of key civil rights, the right of workers to strike, the shift in social priorities as market liberals diverted funds to the military in order to promote their vision of an American empire.
Educational reformers must take seriously Einstein’s warning about the perils of double bind thinking. Double bind thinking can be seen in how the language that contributes to overshooting the sustaining limits of naturals systems is the same language that is reinforced in today’s public schools and universities—and even in courses that are addressing environmental issues. If the readers thinks this is an over generalization, they should check out whether the local professors and classroom teachers are encouraging students to identify culturally and ecologically informed analogies for changing how such words as individualism, progress, tradition, conserving (and conservatism), liberalism, intelligence, community, etc., are understood. More specifically, they should examine whether professors and teachers are challenging students to base their thinking on the new root metaphors of ecology and sustainability rather than taking for granted the root metaphors of progress, individualism, mechanism, anthropocentrism, economism that underlie the industrial/consumer oriented culture. That the root metaphors and analogies of the past can be replaced can be seen in how educators, after much prodding, discovered that the root metaphor of patriarchy and the analogies dictated by this root metaphor, were the basis of gender discrimination.
Briefly, teachers and professors need to help students to become explicitly aware of the differences in their embodied/culturally mediated experiences as they move between the culture of the commons and the culture of industrially driven consumerism. Success will depend in part on helping students become more aware of the many past misconceptions about language. This will include becoming aware that language is not a neutral conduit in a sender/receiver process of communication, that words have a history and, as metaphors, their meaning may carry forward the misconceptions of earlier times, that print-based thinking and communication contributes to relying more on abstractions than on embodied/culturally mediated experiences, and that the root metaphors that gave conceptual direction and moral legitimacy to the industrial revolution and to the current agenda of economic globalization, are accelerating the rate of global warming and other forms of environmental degradation. As most professors and classroom teachers are caught in this linguistic double bind, they will need the help of others in society who have a clearer understanding of how the linguistic double binds are being perpetuated—just as others helped professors and classroom teachers recognize the linguistic basis of gender and racial discrimination—including the colonization of other cultures.
In addition to the educational reforms that must be undertaken, revitalizing the cultural and environmental commons must be seen as the responsibility of various groups that make up American society. This responsibility must be shared by communities of faith, mentors in the various expressive arts, crafts ,and skills essential to the cultural commons, volunteers , and people dedicated to addressing issues of security in food and housing. People engaged in revitalizing the commons, even if they lack the theory framework that explains how the commons represent alternatives to a consumer dependent and environmentally destructive lifestyle, are modeling for youth the pathway that must be taken of we are to achieve a post-industrial future. But the effort to gain the attention of youth, especially in this era of hyper-consumerism, must engage them in cultural commons activities that lead to discovering their own interests, talents, and sense of being a valued member of an intergenerationally connected community. Complaining about the cell phone and computer addicted youth culture will not work. Educational reforms can help students develop the conceptual understanding of which aspects of the cultural commons and industrial/consumer dependent experiences contribute to a sustainable future, and provide the historical perspective on the different forces that are enclosing the diversity of the world’s cultural commons. But it is the members of the community who are intergenerationally renewing the cultural commons that need to reach out to youth.
_____________
Chet Bowers is the author of 19 books and a number of online books and articles that address the cultural roots of the ecological crisis. His website can be accessed at http://cabowers.net or by Googling C. A. Bowers

A Guide for Classroom Teachers and University Professors

Discussions of educational reforms that address how to revitalize the cultural commons as well as how to help students develop the communicative competence necessary for engaging in the political process of resisting various environmental and community forms of enclosure too often are met with indifference or a blank stare that indicates a lack of understanding. Why otherwise intelligent people are unable to recognize the community and ecological importance of the cultural commons can be traced to the way in which public schools and universities have relegated the knowledge and skills that sustain the cultural commons to such low status that they are left out of the curriculum. Thus, in order to discuss educational reforms that address how to revitalize the local cultural commons in an era of global warming and economic globalization, it is first necessary to have a clear understanding of the characteristics of the cultural commons and the different forms of enclosure. The following provides an introductory overview.

Key Characteristics of the Cultural Commons

• The cultural commons represent the largely non-monetized and non-commodified knowledge, skills, activities and relationships that exist in every community.

• They are part of the intergenerational legacy within communities that enable people to engage in activities and relationships that are largely outside of the mainstream consumer, money dependent culture.

• The cultural commons are intergenerationally passed along through face-to-face relationships that may include mentoring.

• The nature of the cultural commons vary from culture to culture, with ethnic groups often sharing aspects of the cultural commons with the dominant culture as well as maintaining their own cultural commons.

• The cultural commons of some cultures may be the source of unjust social practices, while in other cultures the cultural commons carry forward the traditions essential to civil liberties and democratic practices.

• The cultural commons are the basis of local economies and systems of mutual support that contrast sharply with the market system that is driven by the need to create a demand for the constant stream of new products.

• Participation in different aspects of the local cultural commons enables people to discover personal interests, develop skills, and to engage with others in ways that strengthen the sense of community belonging and responsibility.

• The cultural commons, in relying upon non-industrial approaches to production and consumption, have a smaller adverse impact on natural systems.

• The activities and skills that are expressions of the cultural commons connect the generations in ways that are profoundly different from relationships that characterize relationships in a consumer-oriented culture. Moral reciprocity, receptivity to intergenerational learning and mentoring, and an awareness of what needs to be conserved as essential to community identity and self-sufficiency are more easily learned.

• Embodied experiences in the cultural commons are more likely to strengthen the propensity to cooperate rather than to compete, and to lead to identifying oneself more in terms of mutually supportive relationships and personal talents rather than as an autonomous individual who relies upon consumerism as the marker of success.

• The cultural commons strengthen the patterns of mutual support and face-to-face relationships with a broader segment of the community, and thus strengthen the practice of local democracy.

• The cultural commons are under constant threat from ideological, techno-scientific developments, and efforts of the market system to incorporate different aspects of the cultural commons into the market system—thus transforming what remains of community self-sufficiency into dependence upon the market and a money economy.

Examples of Intergenerational Knowledge, Skills, Practices, and Activities Identified as the Cultural Commons: (this list will vary from community to community, and between ethnic groups within the community)

• Food: Growing, preparing, and ways of sharing food. Includes knowledge of growing conditions, recipes for preparing food, traditions of sharing food that strengthen family and ethnic solidarity.

• Healing Practices: Intergenerational knowledge of medicinal characteristics of plants, traditions of providing different forms of support for members of the community that have physical and emotional problems

• Creative Arts: Various forms of dance, theatre, poetry, writing, painting, sculpture, photography that involve community participation, development of interests and talents, and are only minimally dependent upon the market system of production and consumption.

• Narratives and ceremonies: The narratives that are expressions of community memory ranging from sports, achievements in the area of social justice, exemplary individuals who have made major contributions and those who had a destructive influence. Ceremonies that celebrate important events, religious traditions, and so forth. Important to passing on the moral values of the group and strengthening ethnic, working class, religious and other forms of group identity.

• Craft Knowledge and Skills: Activities that combine aesthetic judgment and skill in working with wood, metal, clay, jewelry, glass. Produces both useful objects as well as provides for individual expression that has a transformative effect on the quality of everyday life that raises it above the banal, what is routine and taken-for-granted.

• Games and Outdoor Activities: Intergenerational knowledge, skills, and moral guidelines carried forward in various games ranging from playing chess, cards, to football, track, tennis, and other games. Also, includes hiking, birding, camping, and so forth. Many of these activities increasingly are becoming commercialized and thus are being transformed in community destructive ways.

• Animal Husbandry and Care: Intergenerational knowledge about the care, breeding, and uses of different animals—from sheep dogs, horses, to household pets. Encompasses a wide range of knowledge about sources of feed, habits and traits of the animal, to how to treat physical and other forms of disabilities.

• Political Traditions: Democratic practices, traditions that protect civil liberties achieved in the past, modes of political discourse, moral codes that govern political outcomes not dependent upon use of force and violence, protection of minority groups and points of view.

• Language: Vocabulary that illuminates and hides in terms of the culture’s priorities and prejudices, may be a storehouse of knowledge of local ecosystems, frames different forms of social relationships, reproduces the misconceptions of earlier thinkers, may carry forward the wisdom of earlier times, essential to communicative competence, may be used by totalitarian forces to control consciousness and behavior, has a different cultural influence depending upon whether it communicated face-to-face or mediated through print and electronic modes of communication.

Forms of Enclosure:

• General definition: Enclosure involves transforming the cultural and environmental commons from what is largely shared in common, and subject to local decision making, into what is privately owned, part of the industrial/market economy, and where decision making is located outside the community.

• Ideologies:: The tradition of market liberalism, with its emphasis on expanding markets and profits, private ownership, and on ignoring cultural differences, continues to be a major source of enclosure. Religious fundamentalism may also lead to different forms of enclosure such as civil liberties, narratives of achievements in the areas of social justice and environmental protection.


• Technologies: The mediating characteristics of different technologies contribute to various forms of enclosure—from the way computers enclosure (marginalize) the possibility of mentoring and face-to-face communication, the enclosure of privacy by surveillance technologies, the enclosure of craft knowledge by automated machines, to the bio-technologies that now make it possible for private ownership of gene lines.

• Universities that Define What Constitutes High-Status knowledge: By identifying what constitutes high status knowledge (which is based on many of the same deep cultural assumptions that underlie the industrial/consumer oriented culture that is contributing to the ecological crises) universities and colleges have relegated the various forms of knowledge that are the basis of the cultural commons to low status—with the result that few graduates are aware of the complexity and ecological significance of the cultural commons of their communities.

• Silences Perpetuated by Modern Forms of Development: The emphasis on change, individualism, consumerism, personal happiness and interests (as well as the personal insecurities that accompany the modern industrial system of production and consumption) has resulted in social divisions where the younger generation is unaware of how participation in the local cultural commons may lead to discovering personal interests, the development of skills and talents, and a sense of community. Indeed, it would be more accurate to say that most of the younger generation is predisposed to reject the cultural commons as irrelevant. The older generations who have discovered personal fulfillment and ways of creative expression from participating in different activities within the local cultural commons too often remain isolated from the younger generation. What is being enclosed are the intergenerational continuities, which leaves the younger generation more dependent upon what the market can provide.

• Economic Globalizaton: Western traditions that are being universalized-- such as approaches to education, various uses of computers, science, English and other dominant languages, market system of production and consumptions, military domination, etc.,--are contributing to the enclosure of many of the world’s languages and thus of the world’s cultural commons. The result is that more people are becoming dependent upon consumerism and thus adding to the forces deepening the ecological crises

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