Between the 22nd and 30th of July, around 50 young greens from Europe took part in a commons training in Croatia. The activity was organised by the Federation of Young European Greens.
The sessions focused on natural commons, and the participants had the chance to learn about the topic, theoretically and practically. The training also dealt with one of the most imminent dangers to common resources: climate change.
The beginning of the training focused on common knowledge on what commons are and differentiating between various concepts. Is an open-access resource a commons? Should all people have access to the commons? What is the relationship between human rights and the commons?
Iva Markovic from Zajednicko.org (a commons initiative in Serbia), detailed the key elements of commons: an object (resource), a community, and rules/institutions. We further discussed how these elements are essential for building the commons. Furthermore, the participants were introduced to critical theory by Tomislav Tomasevic from the Institute for Political Ecology in Zagreb. Tomislav expanded on the idea of ownership: whether a resource is in private, public, or in no one’s ownership is not as crucial as who is behind it and how it is managed. He also taught about community terms: why and when is a ‘user’ different than the commoner?
The most interesting example was that of Wikipedia, where many people use the resource, and in certain cases even contribute to its development, though it is the smaller community that manages this and ensures its sustainable development that gathers together Wikipedia’s commoners. In Tomislav’s session, we had the chance to look at various case studies from South East Europe, as presented in this study. The participants analysed the Luke Supply System in BiH, the Recreational Zone Banja Luka, and the Rojc Community Centre in Croatia, and looked at the elements of commons in the case studies, and the problems associated with their sustainability.
When looking at the practical side of commons, the sessions brought many real life case studies of commons, but also of endangered common resources. For example, we looked at the implications of mass tourism on Croatia, and natural resources in Congo and Nigeria. Moreover we also looked at fishing and biodiversity in Senegal, the plans for Barcelona’s water supply system, Bulgaria’s virgin forests, and the land management system in France.
The participants in the camp also took part in a human library activity, in which some of the camp participants told the others the stories of commons they have been involved in. Two out of four examples were from the Balkans (Happy Island in Sanski Most, the Vjosa River in Albania), one from Spain (the institutions managing a forest in Galicia), and the case of Norwegian oil as a common good. Another important case that was discussed in the training in general and down to specific terms was that of the endangered Balkan rivers, and the plans to install more than 3000 dams on them. We discussed the impact of both large and small hydropower plants on rivers, as well as their value for local communities.
Furthermore, the committees at the training helped participants research and get involved in the European level discussion on commons. For example, the Ecosprinter committee sought to research content and draft potential articles for the magazine, while the Dictionary of Commons looked at identifying, defining the concepts we uncovered in the training, as well as, where possible, matching them with examples. The work towards the aims of the committees will be ongoing after the camp, and some of the participants will have the chance to contribute through the FYEG Commons working group.
Preceded by the training on Social Commons, the FYEG Natural Commons camp will be followed by another meeting of young greens, in which the participants will look at Digital Commons in September 2018.
Photos credits: FYEG.