Public/Private: The Commons Besieged
A Photography and Art Exhibit
New to the gallery is Daniel Dietrich whose remarkable nature photography reveals the array of wildlife at the Point Reyes National Seashore. Photographs of New Deal post office art and works by graphic artists Jos Sances, Art Hazelwood, and Doug Minkler depicting the forces behind the sell-off of the nation’s post offices also will be on display
The “Commons”—the resources that we, as Americans, own and manage together— are targeted for capture by our corporatist federal state. Wherever we turn, our publicly owned treasures—parks and public lands, the public airwaves, the Internet, libraries, educational institutions, air, water, fish and wildlife--are shrinking and becoming less accessible.
Private enrichment at public expense—in essence, outright greed—is behind this privatization agenda.
Today’s news tells of the giveaways to private interests. America’s most sacred places—national parks and monuments—are opened to exploitation by oil, gas, logging, mining, and grazing interests. Net Neutrality is eliminated under pressure from corporate lobbyists. Environmental protections rolled back to maximize profits for polluters. Americans’ social safety net—Social Security, unemployment insurance, access to health care for seniors, children, and those in need—are recast at unaffordable “entitlements.”
Two local citizen-based struggles illustrate efforts to preserve the American Commons.
In Berkeley, citizens have fought for more than five years to halt the sale and commercial development of the century-old downtown post office. The U.S. Postal Service sued the city over the restrictive zoning that protects the city’s historic Civic Center district, claiming it limits the pursuit of its privatization scheme. Berkeley is not alone. The struggle against the privatization of the post office is being played out in communities throughout California and the U.S. Nearly 100 historic post offices in as many cities and towns have been sold to private developers or are listed for sale, with huge profits going to private real estate interests.
At the Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, ranchers run commercial dairy and beef operations that impact the public’s land, water, and wildlife. Environmental groups sued the National Park Service, citing federal law requiring that it “conserve unimpaired” the national parks for present and future generations. Yet, cattlemen continue to exert outsized influence not only at this national park but throughout the West, as recent showdowns on public lands in Oregon and Nevada attest.
On its website, the nonprofit Resource Renewal Institute (www. rri.org), which initiated the Point Reyes lawsuit, quotes President Franklin D. Roosevelt. “There is nothing so American as our national parks…The Parks are the outward symbol of the great human principle…that the country belongs to the people.”
For more information, contact Harvey Smith, Exhibit Curator, 510-684-0414 or email@example.com