What Is the “Tragedy of the Commons” as Explained by Garrett Hardin?
Generally, the resource of interest is easily available to all individuals; the tragedy of the commons occurs when individuals neglect the well-being of society in the pursuit of personal gain.
At the point when the carrying capacity of the commons was fully reached, a herdsman might ask himself, “Should I add another animal to my herd?” Because the herdsman owned his animals, the gain of so doing would come solely to him. But the loss incurred by overloading the pasture would be “commonized” among all the herdsmen. Because the privatized gain would exceed his share of the commonized loss, a self-seeking herdsman would add another animal to his herd. And another. And reasoning in the same way, so would all the other herdsmen. Ultimately, the common property would be ruined. Even when herdsmen understand the long-run consequences of their actions, they generally are powerless to prevent such damage without some coercive means of controlling the actions of each individual. Idealists may appeal to individuals caught in such a system, asking them to let the long-term effects govern their actions. But each individual must first survive in the short run. If all decision makers were unselfish and idealistic calculators, a distribution governed by the rule “to each according to his needs” might work. But such is not our world. As James Madison said in 1788, “If men were angels, no Government would be necessary”.
Nonetheless, one cannot be prevented from using a given resource if he or she is not given a substitute (Hetzel 9). Therefore, tragedy of the commons requires a technological solution in order to be averted. To ensure sustainable energy sources in the future we have to come up with renewable sources of energy and embrace them. Notably, common resources have to be utilized albeit in a manner that serves the interests of the whole community. It is important to note that there are circumstances when it is acceptable to use common resources without necessarily depleting them. One of the ways is when the rate of consumption is lower than the rate of replacement or renewal (Manning 134). This will ensure that resources are saved for future generations.
The climate movement needs more people on this lifeboat, not fewer. We must make room for every human if we are going to build the political power necessary to face down the looming oil tankers and coal barges that send heavy waves in our direction. This is a commitment at the heart of proposals like the Green New Deal. Fifty years on, let’s stop the mindless invocation of Hardin. Let’s stop saying that we are all to blame because we all overuse shared resources. Let’s stop championing policies that privilege environmental protection for some human beings at the expense of others. And let’s replace Hardin’s flawed metaphor with an inclusive vision for humanity—one based on democratic governance and cooperation in this time of darkness.
Dauvergne, Peter. Handbook of Global Environmental Politics. Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2005. Print.
Hetzel, Julia. To What Extent is the Tragedy of the Commons Restricting Option When Dealing with a Gloabal Ecological Crisis. Munchen: GRIN Verlag, 2011. Print.
Manning, Robert E. Parks and Carrying Capacity: Commons Without Tragedy. Washington: Island Press, 2007. Print.