After discussing the Commons with Thomas Leif Olsen, a scholar on democracy, he wrote the following to illustrate his understanding of the commons:
“Human (rainforest); because it invites truly diverse, raw and uncensored participation, where only the more durable and/or creative participants prosper over time, while the less durable and/or creative ones remain marginal, and/or withers away. What you see is what you got – not (as consumerism states) what you get! If one wants to know the rainforest, one must take whatever time it takes to observe its full content, and follow its evolutionary processes. Although individuals may be able to nurture this process, it will over time be futile to try to personally ‘lead it.
Inter-Cultural (rainforest); because it exists everywhere at the same time, it is a truly ‘glocal’ phenomenon. Just as the rainforest breeds from local soil and climate conditions, and is affected by regional wind-, rain- and temperature-conditions, as well as by global warming, are human cultures partly local, partly regional, partly global – as well as partly meta-local and meta-global.
Intellectual (rainforest); because the Commons is first and foremost a mental project, that although it has many empirical spin-offs and implications (and is likely to deliver many more over time), it is based on human input in terms views, ideas and opinions. These views, ideas and opinions will, just as the rainforest, have an endless number of ‘categories’ – some of which grow stronger and spread well beyond its humble origin, while others may look promising, and for a while seem dominant, but eventually die out like the dinosaurs. The majority of these ‘categories’ will, nevertheless, remain as an adaptable but still important undergrowth.
Rainforest; because just as all living species are dependent on the photosynthesis, by which our climate and pollution is kept in check, are our communities dependent on the human ability to accommodate both mainstream and more extreme ‘categories’.
The rainforest may be possible to eliminate to the five senses, but just as the sixth sense – by some seen as our ‘innate culture’ – it will survive in the unseen, and return whenever opportunity arises. Endless are the examples of how the jungle has re-taken space that man has cultivated into agricultural and residential land, simply because the underlying energy of nature can only be altered – and/or stopped – by nature itself.
In the same way can societies organized by man only remain for as long as it is maintained to that order, and when that organization starts to wither away will the power of human imagination and creativity eventually re-take the initiative.
By now we know that we can’t both cut down the rainforest and survive. The choice is however ours. In the same way we must decide whether we shall cut down or nurture the Commons – which were always there and always will remain there, for as long as humans populate the earth – which has been dominated by vested interests for so long so we almost forgot it existed.
Just like the rainforest, of which sub-Saharan Africa and South America are nowadays our main custodians, is the Commons an ecological concern, for which a free www is our main custodian. The Commons stands as the representative body of the ecological diversity of humans (although its representative ‘scope’ is still limited), without which humans eventually will succumb to cultural and intellectual malnutrition.”