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Romi Necq S.


June 20, 2015

Tragedy of the Commons

Tragedy of the Commons is a term developed by ecologist Garrett Hardin from the title of an
article he wrote in 1968. This article he wrote is based from the essay of a Victorian man named William
Forster Lloyd in 1833. Commons or common goods refers to accessible land or natural resources that
is shared by a whole community or society. In relation to this, the first aforementioned term is a situation
that involves conflict over resources between independent self-interests of individuals as opposed to
the general interest of the whole group where they belong to. These few individuals exploit the
resources, neglecting the consequences of their act and thus causing depletion of the commons and
problems to other people belonging to the same community.
Hardin explains the Tragedy of the Commons in his essay by telling the reader to create a
mental picture of a pasture owned by a group of herdsmen. One of the herdsman wants to keep as
many cattle as possible on the commons in order to increase his profit. Consequently, he adds another
animal to his herd, one after the other. But this conclusion is also attained by other rational herdsman
sharing a commons. Addition of animals to the pasture will cause overgrazing, depleting the commons
and eventually destroying it. This results in tragedy.
The concept of tragedy of the commons is frequently associated with sustainable development,
including the increase in population, use of renewable resources and the environment, growth of
economy, welfare state, and other similar matters. It also serves as a useful example in understanding
the cause of environmental calamities, economic crises and renewable and non-renewable resource or
common dilemmas currently happening globally. All of these occur because of peoples inappropriate
collective behavior.
Pollution is the resulting token of the tragedy of the commons. Each person, factories and
companies can easily dispose their waste into air or bodies of water. When governments do not place
limits on their pollution releases, they benefit economically from free disposal of waste. It is therefore
necessary for governments to regulate pollution, providing appealing incentives to prevent pollution or
imposing penalties should pollution occur.
But some government officials have taken advantage of their positions and neglected the
masses. Instead of imposing laws to promote caring for the environment and prohibiting the
destruction of lands, they use revenues for their own wealth and created private industries which are
emitting harmful gases into the environment and polluting the air. The mining of oil which at times is
done at sea, has also spilled to the ocean as a result of negligence. Those involved in the fishing
industry they tend to carry out their fishing activities thought the year thus not giving time for the
young fish to grow and in the end they end up being depleted and no fish at all to anyone.
Sometimes, fishermen resort to using dynamites and cyanide to kill fishes instead of using the net
since it is easier and faster to acquire fishes, without taking notice of the harmful effects of it in the
marine ecosystem.

Since no one owns the oceans or the skies and underneath the ground, people might use up
all resources they could find and pollute them into oblivion. Most lands nowadays are either protected
or privatized, but they are not excused for massive extractions and consumption of resources found in
them. Many big companies sought to find new measures to obtain the valuable resources from others,
even if it could mean illegally conducting the operations and nonchalantly disregarding anything that is
in their way. Like for example, the ongoing dispute between China and the Philippines between the
ownership of the islands located in South China Sea, which China believes to contain oil below them.
Another important implication of the tragedy of the commons is the rapid rise of population. The
current world population is estimated at seven billion. All these people need resources like air, water
and food to eat which are among the most essential needs to any human being. The only problem is
even with the increase in population these resources have not consistently increased with it but have
actually been polluted. The Earth we live in is not infinite. It has a limited supply of renewable fuels and
a finite space for dumping wastes. Each person has to compete with others in order to survive.
Although some of the human activity very often does occur on private properties which are not
a commons, combining these and other human activities happens to take place in a limited system
which is in a dynamic, competitive, and constantly evolving equilibrium. The continuous growth in the
population or in its exploitation of land and resources will eventually exceed the capacity of the
ecosystem to sustain them.
In order to prevent the tragedy of the commons from happening in our society, some solutions
are presented. First, we must change our morality and outlook in using the resources. As members of
the society, each member have to form mutual agreements and sets of rules on the proper use of
resources and abide by it. Violating these will each have the corresponding penalties.
The government can execute the restriction of accessible lands by privatizing the properties
which would limit the number of people using the land. Public properties must be properly controlled
so that each person has the right to use it without abusing the available resources.
The government can also give out incentives for users to invest in the resources instead of
overexploiting. They can be motivated by a marketplace that rewards positive environmental behavior,
and punishes unwanted, harmful behavior.
In conclusion, the cause of most tragedies of the commons can be accounted for most
peoples greed to amass more than he could get. The tragedy of the commons should be one issue
which is discussed in a wider perspective because it affects all the stakeholders involved and
eventually we are the people who suffer the consequences.