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Synopsis

A huge part of our economy is invisible, invaluable, and under siege. "The commons" is a term that denotes everything we share as opposed to own privately. Some parts of the commons are gifts of nature: the air and oceans, the web of species, wilderness, and watersheds. Others are the product of human creativity and endeavor: sidewalks and public squares, the Internet, our languages, cultures, technologies, and infrastructure. In graceful and down-to-earth prose, Jonathan Rowe illuminates the scale and value of the commons, its symbiotic relationship with the rest of the economy, its importance to our personal and planetary well-being, and how it is threatened by privatization and neglect. Rowe also describes a growing movement to recognize and defend the commons on many fronts: community initiatives, legal actions, and visionary proposals such as a “sky trust” to charge polluters and distribute the proceeds to all of us. Simple gestures can be powerful too: Rowe relates how he set some benches in a vacant lot and watched a public gathering space take shape. For decades, people have defended the commons and not known it. They’ve battled pollution, development, corporate marketing assaults on their kids, and many other attacks on common wealth. What’s been missing is a story that unifies all these seemingly unrelated battles with the force of a powerful idea. This is what Jonathan Rowe provides in this thought-provoking book. “It’s not too much to say that our future as a species requires grasping the ideas in this book.” —from the foreword by Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature

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