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History of the Commons

Commons The concept of "the commons" dates back to Roman law. According to the Romans, property or "things" (objects which may become an active subject of right) were divided by distinct definition. Res privatae was considered the "things" that individuals could own. In modern day lingo, this would include a new car, computer, or an appliance. Res publicae was defined as those things built by municipalities, governing bodies, the State or federal government. Examples include public schools, roads, sidewalks, and libraries.

Res communes literally means "things common to all" and comprises those things extra patrimoiium (incapable of being possessed) and thus available to all organisms. These resources by their dynamic nature include water, air, and biological and genetic diversity.

Increasingly, economic developments by industries for short-term gain have led to advances that jeopardize species diversity, access to clean water, and human health. For example, our domesticated seed supply is being intensively privatized by a handful of corporations thus constricting genetic and biological diversity. Our waters are being impacted by toxic and sedimentary pollution thus affecting the health and recovery of our fisheries, their habitat, and human health. Industries are knowingly polluting the air we breathe with toxic pollutants and particulate matter smothering our own genetic and biological makeup's ability to recover. Instead of democratically managing our common heritage, we are provided mutilated resources that have been heavily influenced by Machiavellian covenants and policies.

Our environment, its water, air, and biodiversity, is our common heritage. It is ours to manage and conserve. The health of the commons has been gravely compromised and it is up to us to regain our common interests.

It was a community which resulted from the fact that those things which were common to all belonged no more to one than to the others, and hence no one could prevent another from taking of these common things that portion which he judged necessary in order to subserve his wants from. Geer v. Connecticut, 161 U.S. 519 (1896)


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