Friday, September 11, 2009

The Tragedy of the Commons

This is a the title of an article published in 1968. Here is a link to the original piece, published in Science. Tied to the Jevons Paradox piece in my blog post below are connections between human nature and human impact on our planet. Our planet is The Commons. How long will it be until enough of us put this 2 & 2 together and take care of business. Inserted next is a small section of the wiki entry on The Tragedy of the Commons. I invite all to read and contemplate the work of some profound thinkers.

"The Tragedy of the Commons" can be applied to environmental issues such as sustainability. The commons dilemma stands as a model for a great variety of resource problems in society today, such as water, land, fish, and non-renewable energy sources like oil and coal. When water is used at a higher rate than the reservoirs are replenished, fish consumption exceeds its reproductive capacity, or oil supplies are exhausted, then we face a tragedy of the commons.
Situations exemplifying the "tragedy of the commons" include the overfishing and destruction of the Grand Banks, the destruction of salmon runs on rivers which have been dammed – most prominently in modern times on the Columbia River in the Northwest United States, and historically in North Atlantic rivers – the devastation of the sturgeon fishery – in modern Russia, but historically in the United States as well – and, in terms of water supply, the limited water available in arid regions (e.g., the area of the Aral Sea) and the Los Angeles water system supply, especially at Mono Lake and Owens Lake.Other situations exemplifying the "tragedy of the commons" include pollution caused by driving cars. There are many negative externalities of driving; these include congestion, carbon emissions, and traffic accidents.