Living on Earth continues its series exploring features of the American landscape, based on the book Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape, edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney. In this installment, Donna Seaman explains the term "commons."
CURWOOD: From naming nature – to naming our landscape. The features of our American geography are the theme of our occasional series Home Ground.
Today writer Donna Seaman defines a term dear to many lovers of the countryside – commons.
SEAMAN: Commons. A common, or commons, is land that belongs to an entire community. More specifically, it is open land held in common by the people of a town for shared pasturage or the gathering of firewood. As noted in A Gazetteer of Illinois in 1834 by J.M. Peck, “A common is a tract of land…in which each owner of a village lot has a common but not an individual right. In some cases this tract embraces several thousand acres – the common attached to Cahokia extends up the prairie opposite St. Louis.” In her book Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert, Terry Tempest Williams notes that “most lands in the American West are public lands, a commons if you will, held inside a national trust: national forests, Bureau of Land Management lands, national parks, monuments, and refuges.” I say, these are the commons of a global village, preserved with common sense and commitment to the common good.
CURWOOD: Donna Seaman is a writer and editor based in Illinois. Her definition of commons comes from the book Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape, edited by Barry Lopez and Debra Gwartney.
[MUSIC: Brian Blade “Struggling With That” from Mama Rosa (Nonesuch 2009)]
YOUNG: Just ahead – could part of the prescription for saving Brazil’s biodiversity be … snake oil? Stay with us - on Living on Earth.
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