Commons Jeopardy

Most of life unfolds where we cannot see or even sense it - in air, ice, water, soil, forests, wetlands and oceans; in our bodies and the bodies of others. Pulsing. Interacting. Communicating. Exchanging. Continuously. It occurred to me the other day that this invisible world is a global commons in its own right, comprised of microbes, biomes, and all the mysterious participants and relationships whose outcomes keep life going, even though to us they are intangible.

Since European colonial expansion and particularly since the industrial revolution our global commons has morphed from 'forests and waters free to all', honored and protected by all, to a commons comprised of garbage and ruin. The price of industrial progress has required massive amounts of raw materials and generated massive amounts of waste which are both sourced and disposed of in places that have been, until now, out of sight, out of mind, to the primary beneficiaries of these toxic practices. The cost in human suffering is equally absent from modernity's cost-benefit calculations.

Our collective grief is a kind of emotional commons, no less important than the commons we can see and touch and the one that is only visible under a microscope. In order to harvest grief's blessings, we must actively engage with it. As with digestion, as with subsoil microbes, the impact of unmetabolized grief permeates everything. By tending to our grief, we are protecting everything that matters, because the grief of our time has its roots in trauma, war and injustice which are, in turn, the foundation of exploitation.

We are responsible, too, for the full delivery of our unique soul-gifts, and for ensuring that the gifts of others are honored. Now more than ever, we need all the singers, thinkers, artists, and inventors who are currently struggling to survive, including those stuck in stultifying jobs and endemic violence. This cannot occur absent a healthy relationship with the natural world, which, in turn, requires us to engage with our trauma and grief. All roads lead us back to ourselves and to the recognition of our rightful place in nature as Her protectors. All the original plants and animals are necessary to a thriving world. What is silenced is diminished. What is diminished cannot thrive. What cannot thrive impairs everything around it. Though it is useful to name the shared terrains of the visible, invisible and emotional realms, the global commons encompasses everything. It is a seamless continuum that does not differentiate between past and present, inner and outer, human and other-than-human.

The global commons includes everything required for Life to flourish, and now it includes the devastation we have wrought. We need to re-tool our thinking to remember this. Then we need to teach our children and our elected officials to do likewise.

2015_18_13 plastic coral2 (1).jpg