2012-10-16 The Tragedy of the Commons.docx

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Political Science
Political Science 2137
Cameron Harrington

The Tragedy of the Commons: Common Pool Resource Problems and CollectiveAction October 16, 2012 The Tragedy of the Commons  Hardin’s article part of a wave of enviro literature in 1960s-70s  Can be used to understand many contemporary environmental problems – e.g. marine pollution, overfishing, climate change, space debris, etc. -Garrett Hardin, “Tragedy of the Commons” -tragedy of the commons: one of the most important environmental texts in the past 40 years -possibly the most important environmental text ever -written in 1968 -Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962)beginnings of that movement (public consciousness), etc. -Hardin comes in and says that the commons, historically, have exhibited the personal characteristics of humans -human actions are selfish -humans act for selfish reasons, individuality -this is a tragedy, he says -tragedymoral connotation: inevitable reality -something we can’t stop; something we can’t touch (according to laws of universe) -inevitability -Hardin has reputation of these writings -”Living on a Lifeboat”we shouldn’t give food assistance to poor people and poor government because we’re essentially promoting bad behaviour -written 5 years after Tragedy of the Commons -he sees the problem of overpopulation as so dire -Tragedy of the Commons -e.g. dumping in oceans, atmosphere pollution, overfishing, greenhouse gas and global warming as a result Hardin’s Thesis • Field grows enough grass to support 8 sheep. • The field is shared by all four shepherds (blue, green, red, purple). • Each wants to maximize interest by putting as many sheep as he/she can • Blue puts 3 sheep • Green puts 3 sheep • Red puts 2 sheep • Purple puts 2 sheep • = 10 sheep. Land then degrades. The result is a tragedy ‘freedom in the commons brings ruin to all’ ‘freedom is the recognition of necessity’ -Hardin’s thesis: uses a specific hypothetical situation -imagine an old English village and in this village, there’s a common pasture -open to all residents there -any residents there can bring their cattle or sheep and raise them there -sheep and cattleprivately owned -but the land is common; publicly owned -without any enforceable limits, Hardin warned that villagers are expected to continue to add in cattle for their own personal benefit -they would do so even though the land would be degraded and everyone would fail as a result -people derive personal benefit and income -problem: environmental damage occurs when you add more to the land -the damages are shared in the community -individual, rational level: makes sense to continue to add until the resource becomes degraded and less and nothing -individual rationality leads to collective irrationality -individual rationality: can’t we rationalize in the long run that in the end, it won’t be a benefit for us? -John Maynard Keynes: in the long run, we’re dead -we have to calculate what our neighbours are going through -what about our future generations? -you’re not just acting for yourself, you are also betting on what other people do -at the end, people lose -individual rationality can lead to bad outcomes (game theory) -we can’t expect self-constraint -at the end, believing in good faith = a disaster -inevitably, however many people will see the great benefit of self-constraint -concept of free-riding -accrues the benefits without sacrificing anything themselves -free ridingHardin thinks it’s inevitable -people put as little as themselves out there -free-riders: ruins the game for everyone else -voluntary self-restraint and agreement will always collapse -people will say they put one additional sheep..eventually it’ll collapse -people see they get less than people who free-ride -solutions: dividing up the commons? -punishing the free-riders? Banishing them? -property rights, privatization -central authority dictating -Hardin: SOLUTION lies in regulation and coercive enforcement -there needs to be enforceable rules that places the limits -only way that environmental tragedy can be avoided -real freedom: recognition of necessity -it’s not about doing whatever you want -there must be laws/rules that will dictate how we behave Hardin’s ‘Lifeboat Ethics’ • Lifeboat with 60-person capacity • 50 people on board = 10 spots remain • 100 people struggling in the water • How many should they bring aboard? • Hardin extends analogy to international food aid. • Should rich countries provide food to poor countries? -lifeboat ethics: written in 1974 -Living on a Lifeboat -scenario where there’s a lifeboat, riding along seas and there’s a ship collapse -lifeboat has capacity of 60 -room for 10 people since it only has 50 occupied -100 people pleading to be a part of 10 -Hardin: we should not let anyone on board -if we took all 100 = lifeboat will sink and everyone dies -if we take 10 more, we are decreasing the safety of the rest of 50 passengers -other course of action: deny 100 people’s opportunity to be safe -guaranteed for people on board that they’re going to be safe -Hardin extends this example to international food aid -he’s counseling countries with food surplus to not be tempted to give food to the need -if they do so, they will replicate a common internationally -exploited by poor countries --international countries see no need to develop their economies, to impose population control matters -we will then have population growth = more demand on food  later would overwhelm developed countries -developing countries forced to be on their own -we can do privatizing or nationalizing -divide pasture and let individuals own -if we look at international food supplynations would only consume the food they would be able to produce -nations should almost be self-reliant and treat their own land as their own -global population would diminish when the world forces developing countries to find their own food (without accepting aid) -leave them to their own needs -intrinsic responsibility *it’s cheaper to get Coca-Cola than water* -Coca-Cola company re-route streams, away from the developing countries *moral* problem: this is not black and white; it’s grey -can we have a complete stoppage of international aid? -is it moral to let someone starve? -it’s better to have less people on Earth? The Concept of the Commons  Commons:  “Aresource domain” with resource units (e.g. English pasture with grass for cattle to graze on)  Available to multiple users for individual gain (e.g. the high seas)  Resource units of a commons are finite – when it is consumed it is no longer available -Within that resource domain, there are resource units -these units are what is useful for humans to derive benefit from -pasture in English village is the resource domain -resource unit is the sheep/cattle, using that domain -clumps of grass that sheep/cattle graze upon are the units in the commons, part of the domain -resource domain: could be physical, geographical space or collectivity of resources (e.g. Fish dock) -resource unit could be physical object (e.g. trees you are removing from forest, garbage bag, etc.) -commons: accessible to multiple users -common users can use the commons for their own individual gains -open access: anyone can use them -limited access: select few of approved users can use commons -e.g. Village pasturelimited pastureonly villagers can use it -open access commons: e.g. international waters (oceansopened access; anyone can use it or be on them; no one owns the oceans) -any fishing boats can take fish there -e.g. outer space – no one owns space *-some restrictions* -specific resource units: resource units within commons are finite (limited amounts within a common) -once you take from it, another actor can also consume it as well -e.g. pasture is finite: it can only have so much grass -cattle eats lump of grass: not available for others to eat -e.g. fish stocks: finite amount of fish; eventually there’ll be 0 -can be replenished over time, but you can overfish and devastate the resource -no prospect of long term -e.g. atmosphere: no country owns -atmosphere’s ability to absorb pollutants -limited capacity for atmosphere to do thatcan’t absorb everything we throw up there -serious environmental consequence -finite capacity Who Owns the Commons?  Historically, it could be owned by the King, a wealthy landlord. Or it could be un-owned.  What about now?  Who owns the oceans?  “Res communis”  Who owns the fish?  “Res nullius”  Who owns the seabed? Antarctica?  “common heritage of mankind”?  Outer Space?  “The province of all mankind”  The atmosphere?  “beyond the jurisdiction of nations” -who owns commons? -in history: commons not owned by everyone -pasture in English village are most likely to be owned by monarch (king/queen/wealthy landlord who permitted residents of the village to use it) -if there is an owner of commons, they set up rules on how to use it, how many people can use it, how it’s going to be used for, etc. -oceans: legally, traditionally they fall under res communis (unavailable for exclusive claims) -e.g. nation can’t claim that ocean -distinguishes from concept of res nullius: different designation -”resource that isn’t owned, per say, but available for others to use” -country can’t go and say they owned the fish; but they can take as many fish as they can/they want -once you caught fish = becomes property -seabed: has a legal status -different than the oceans -seabed owned 12 nautical miles beyond the physical limitations and physical end of the countries -e.g. Canada owns seabed of 12 nautical miles out in the oceans -not part of global commons -whole continent ofAntarctica: how do we define its status? who owns that land? Who owns the commons? -1 half of century: Antarctica controlled by 7 countries:Argentina,Australia, Chile, France, India, Norway, and UK (don’t need to know that) -they go in there and tried to assume control over the continent -they tried to carve out niches ofAntarctica -eventually, their claims later windled down, especially when WWII arouse -USSR didn’t recognize those claims -it’s the common heritage of mankind -enshrined in treaty in 1959 -all resources found inAntarctica that can be exploited cannot be owned by a single nation -ambiguous language in treaty -agreement (moratorium): on oil, material exploitation inAntarctica -legal status: so ambiguous; they don’t want any country to have a huge amount of oil, minerals, gas, etc. -outer space: global commons -has some ambiguity -how do you define outer space? how far does national jurisdiction overstep? -space between air space and outer space is ambiguous; not accurately defined -but, we have legal designation that says that 200km up is owned by the nation -once you are above that, that country doesn’t own it; it becomes a province of mankind -outer space only became an issue in the half century -space exploration -all activities in outer space seen to be done on the basis of equality -not seen to benefit one nation over another one -e.g. missions to moon: explicit in legal language; they’re not there to benefit one country over another -US can’t harvest mineral they found on moon: against international law to dig up the moon and get minerals -atmosphere -at a highpoint -highest region: atmosphere -most harmful gases collected -biggest problems for Earth: how do we manage the global commons of atmosphere? -Who’s responsibility is it? -we see degrading of the commons in atmosphere -difficult to manage Preventing Environmental Tragedies Five basic approaches: 1. Voluntary restraint 2. Restrictions/rules 3. Market incentives 4. Divide domains up into sections 5. Socialize the use of the commons -how do we prevent overgrazing (or overfishing)? -1. voluntary restraint: -skepticism of voluntarily restraint (actually doing something to solve problem) -people agreeing they won’t overuse/overgraze the commons -difficult to install environmental regimes -very difficult to get 190+ countries to agree on anything and commit -only way: to make commitments that are non-binding and countries take what they want under agreement -e.g. UN GeneralAssembly: always adopting resolutions -known as soft lawthey don’t resemble the laws we have in our country, on domestic grounds -yo
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