The Street as Public Commons: A Cross-Cultural Comparative Framework for Studying Waste and Traffic in India

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"The street, lanes, and by-ways are a commons throughout much of the world, a part of the environment not owned by any one individual, family, lineage, or corporation, but belonging to the community at large. While issues of the commons have come to loom large to preoccupy scholars, researchers, and planners in a world facing depletion of resources, climatic change, pollution, and massive threat to the biome of living species, little attention has been directed to the cross-cultural study of the commonsthat begins outside our homes. Yet the street as commons is the very place in which one often first experiences domains outside the domestic sphere, where one shares resources with one's neighbor and community, where conceptions and precepts about behavior in the public domain are socialized and communicated to a new generation. In this paper I argue that, indeed, it behooves us to study the street as commons, for herein in this arena so active and omnipresent in our lives we enact again and again attitudes and expectations that are fundamental to our relatings to others outside our kin. It is here on the streets that we move from among our kindred, affines, neighbors, and friends out into the world of strangers beyond our normal ken. In the metropolis, the townships, and villages growing vertically throughout the world, one increasingly enters a traffic of unrelated others. Among strangers how do we manage the street as a common resource among us? For the street provides space for the movement and meeting of people, for the transport, storing, and retrieval of materials and energy, and for the communicating and reaffirmation of information and meanings. As a potential public arena, the commons becomes a place in which one can communicate not only civic pride and loyalty, but civic anger, disloyalty, sabotage, and retribution. It provides access to sunlight, heat, warmth, and air. It is a venue for water transport and for sewage disposal."



nontraditional common pool resources, roads, urban commons, neighborhoods, IASC