On the Commons:

A newsletter about ownership, property, and what we lose in the privatization of the commons, by essayist and author of A Walking Life: Reclaiming Our Health and Our Freedom—One Step at a Time Antonia Malchik. I have written essays for Aeon, The Atlantic, Orion, High Country News, and many other publications (most published essays are on my website). I live in northwest Montana with my spouse, two kids, a dog, and semi-resident wildlife.

Sunset behind the Rocky Mountains from Hungry Horse Reservoir

Ownership: Imagine two people, the only people in existence, facing each other in a meadow. One person places a rock between their feet and says, “Everything on this side of the rock is now mine.” Does the other person acquiesce or not? What if one of them has access to fresh water and the other doesn’t? What if one has a weapon and the other doesn’t? Will they fight over the invisible line spilling out from that single stone, or agree on it? Will their descendents seven generations hence feel bound by their choices?            

The battle between private property and the commons goes back millennia. Land, water, commodification, governance, and relationships—they are all commons, from global to hyper-local. We need the commons to ensure well-being for all. But first, we need to relearn what “the commons” means, why they matter, how they’re taken from us through enclosure or erosion, and how we could relate to them differently. Only by getting to the roots of these issues will we have the power to oppose further privatization that benefits only a few. How we approach and define “ownership” has profound implications for our lives.

Paid subscribers:

  • Access to my book-in-progress, No Trespassing: How the Ancient Struggle for Ownership, Private Property, and the Rights of the Commons Will Define Our Future, released chapter-by-chapter on this newsletter.

  • Regular “Walking compositions,” mini-essays mixing ongoing research with my life in Montana, like the time a grizzly bear ate all my sister’s chickens, installing pronghorn-friendly fencing, and elk hunting. Walking compositions include carefully curated lists of writing, podcasts, and videos.

  • Occasional audio offerings: nature recordings, traffic recordings, audio essays.

Free Subscribers:

  • Longform essays related to land, privatization, identity, and the human story.

  • Shorter excerpts from No Trespassing book chapters as they’re released.

  • Occasional walking compositions.

Subscribe to On the Commons

A newsletter about ownership, property, and what we lose in the privatization of the commons.


Antonia Malchik
Essays in Aeon, The Atlantic, High Country News, the Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. My book "A Walking Life" is available anywhere books are sold. I live in and write from northwest Montana.