Possibilities of the commons

Monday, November 16th, 2009 | Environment Update

Ever heard of the tragedy of commons? This concept argues that a common resource, like a fish stock, fresh water or common piece of land, can’t be used sustainably. This is because all users will try to take as much as they can without regard for the effect on others and in the future. The usual solution to this problem is privatisation or governmental regulations. Elinor Ostrom, professor in political science and 2009 Nobel laureate in economic sciences, has shown that the tragedy of commons is not a law of nature. Ostrom’s research examines communities that have been successful in the long-term sustainable management of their resources. Due to mutual dependency and respect cattle farmers in Switzerland, crop farmers in Spain and fishermen in Turkey have found ways to avoid the tragedy of commons. It is a great achievement for a researcher with an environmental focus to receive a prize in economics.

Check out Elinor Ostrom seminar at Stockholm Resilience Center

Recommended reading: Governing the commons by Elinor Ostrom (1989)


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