By Kevin Arnold
Films for Action
Originally published January 22, 2011
Here is an excerpt:
Thirty-five years ago, Garret Hardin, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, authored a ground-breaking article in the journal Science that introduced an idea: the tragedy of the commons. Our survival was at stake, he argued, if we failed to open our eyes and realize that Earth's physical resources were finite. Treating them as a free-for-all was no longer acceptable if we wanted to reduce human suffering and prolong our existence on this planet.
To illustrate the tragedy, he used the example of 14th-century common land. 'Picture a pasture open to all,' he wrote. 'It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons.' When a herder adds a cow to the pasture, he reaps the benefit of a larger herd. Meanwhile, the cost of the animal - the damage done to the pasture - is divided among all the herdsmen.
This continues until, finally, the herders reach a delicate point: as the pasture becomes overgrazed, each new animal threatens the well-being of the entire herd. 'At this point,' Hardin argues, 'the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy.'
The entire article is here.
Thanks to Ed Zuckerman for this article.