The Commons: An Unfinished History

A keynote at the Green Light District festival in Porsgrunn, Norway on the commons, enclosure, fishing, hill farming and the backstory to the industrial world in which we find ourselves.

A city navigating the transition from the old certainties of heavy industry to the promises of a post-industrial future. Out in the fjord, we passed a tanker with SHALE GAS FOR PROGRESS emblazoned on its side. The venue was a shiny new arts centre, the event a seminar to mark the opening of the Greenlightdistrict Art Festival. The welcome was warm and following the opening lecture from Ove Jakobsen, professor of ecological economics at Bodø, I had an hour to unfold some of the backstory to the industrial world to which we find ourselves the heirs.

This was a story about fishermen and hill-farmers, about the history of how people have made a living and made lives for themselves on the edges of a continent or in the hill country where there’s never been much profit to be made. It’s a story about why the history of the commons bears no relation to Garret Hardin’s famous ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ – and how this history is still unfinished.

Greenlightdistrict Kunstfestival, Porsgrunn, Norway