E-Mail Alert

Add your e-mail address to receive forthcoming issues of this journal:

Journal Browser

Journal Browser

Special Issue "Tragedy or Transcendence: Reflections on 'The Tragedy of the Commons'"

Quicklinks

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2012)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Richard Samuel Deese (Website)

Boston University, College of General Studies, 871 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA
Phone: +1 617 358 3209
Fax: +1 617 353 5868
Interests: Cold War, Technology and Culture, Global Environmentalism

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

For more than four decades, the paradigm established by Garrett Hardin’s 1968 essay “The Tragedy of the Commons” has influenced how we think about a wide range of social and ecological challenges, including human population growth, the destruction of wilderness and consequent loss of biodiversity, and the changing state of the earth’s oceans, atmosphere, and climate. Hardin’s metaphor of the fragile commons has even influenced our thought about phenomena that were still nascent in 1968, such as the evolution of the “digital commons” or Internet. As the half century mark for “The Tragedy of the Commons” approaches, these essays will consider whether Hardin’s metaphor remains useful for understanding our current social and ecological challenges, or whether these problems, and their possible solutions, now transcend the parameters set by this seminal essay.

Dr. Richard Samuel Deese
Guest Editor

Published Papers (6 papers)

View options order results:
result details:
Displaying articles 1-6
Export citation of selected articles as:

Research

Open AccessArticle Asymmetrical Contributions to the Tragedy of the Commons and Some Implications for Conservation
Sustainability 2013, 5(3), 1036-1048; doi:10.3390/su5031036
Received: 17 December 2012 / Revised: 7 February 2013 / Accepted: 22 February 2013 / Published: 6 March 2013
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (992 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In Garrett Hardin’s popular essay on “The Tragedy of the Commons”, he presents a model of a shared commons where herdsmen graze their cattle to illustrate the tension between group and self-interest that characterizes so many social dilemmas. However, Hardin is not [...] Read more.
In Garrett Hardin’s popular essay on “The Tragedy of the Commons”, he presents a model of a shared commons where herdsmen graze their cattle to illustrate the tension between group and self-interest that characterizes so many social dilemmas. However, Hardin is not explicit that consumption can actually vary widely among herdsman, although later, when discussing population growth, he clarifies that “people vary”. People do indeed vary, and here we explore further the prevalence of asymmetrical contributions to the tragedy of the commons. We also provide several examples to demonstrate that asymmetries have been frequently underappreciated by conservation initiatives. Given that many of today’s major environmental problems, such as climate change, freshwater shortages, and overfishing, are problems of users or groups of users over-consuming common resources asymmetrically, we believe identifying patterns of consumption is a necessary first step in solving any social dilemma, and can help elucidate priority areas for conservation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tragedy or Transcendence: Reflections on 'The Tragedy of the Commons')
Figures

Open AccessArticle Impact of Climate and Land Use Changes on Water and Food Security in Jordan: Implications for Transcending “The Tragedy of the Commons”
Sustainability 2013, 5(2), 724-748; doi:10.3390/su5020724
Received: 30 November 2012 / Revised: 29 January 2013 / Accepted: 6 February 2013 / Published: 15 February 2013
Cited by 17 | PDF Full-text (2116 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This study investigates the impact of climate change and land use change on water resources and food security in Jordan. The country is dominated by arid climate with limited arable land and water resources, where the per capita share of water is [...] Read more.
This study investigates the impact of climate change and land use change on water resources and food security in Jordan. The country is dominated by arid climate with limited arable land and water resources, where the per capita share of water is less than 145 m3/year. The study focused on crop production and water resources under trends of anticipated climate change and population growth in the country. Remote sensing data were used to determine land use/cover changes and rates of urbanization, which took place at the cost of the cultivable land. Recession of irrigated areas led to lesser food production and food security. Outputs from crop production and water requirements models, in addition to regression analysis, were used to estimate the projected increase in agricultural water demand under the scenarios of increased air temperature and reduced rainfall by the years 2030 and 2050. Results indicated that problems of water scarcity and food insecurity would be exacerbated by climate change and increased population growth. To move from the tragedy of the commons towards transcendence, the study emphasized the need for adaptive measures to reduce the impacts of climate change on water resources and food security. The challenge, however, would remain the development and the efficient use of new water resources as a means for future sustainable development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tragedy or Transcendence: Reflections on 'The Tragedy of the Commons')
Open AccessArticle The Tragedy of the “Tragedy of the Commons”: Why Coining Too Good a Phrase Can Be Dangerous
Sustainability 2012, 4(11), 3141-3150; doi:10.3390/su4113141
Received: 28 August 2012 / Revised: 30 October 2012 / Accepted: 13 November 2012 / Published: 15 November 2012
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (162 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
A deep reading of Hardin (1968) reveals that he had a lot more to say about the use and regulation of resources such as fisheries than he is given credit for in the literature. It appears that he is typically cited just [...] Read more.
A deep reading of Hardin (1968) reveals that he had a lot more to say about the use and regulation of resources such as fisheries than he is given credit for in the literature. It appears that he is typically cited just so that authors can use the phrase “tragedy of the commons” to invoke the specter of looming catastrophe and then tie that to whatever solution they have proposed. We argue in this contribution that there is a lot more in Hardin’s essay that either contradicts or greatly complicates the arguments he is cited as an authority for. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tragedy or Transcendence: Reflections on 'The Tragedy of the Commons')
Open AccessArticle Tragedy of the Commons, Business Growth and the Fundamental Sustainability Problem
Sustainability 2012, 4(10), 2443-2471; doi:10.3390/su4102443
Received: 6 August 2012 / Revised: 5 September 2012 / Accepted: 20 September 2012 / Published: 28 September 2012
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (440 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper reviews the major issues involved in Hardin’s [1] tragedy of the commons, written over 44 years ago, and examines whether these issues are still relevant today. We assert that this model still provides important insight to aid in the solution [...] Read more.
This paper reviews the major issues involved in Hardin’s [1] tragedy of the commons, written over 44 years ago, and examines whether these issues are still relevant today. We assert that this model still provides important insight to aid in the solution to our global problems. In particular, we maintain that the underlying issues of growth against limits and bounded rationality are still not adequately recognized and addressed; this underlies many of the reasons for our unsustainable world. Examples from fisheries management are used to examine potential solutions and reveal weaknesses in current approaches. We show how our current, restricted mental models promote social injustice and blind us to developing sustainable solutions. Both the neo-liberal economic view of business that directly seeks growth and the new sustainable development view that indirectly supports growth are leading our global economy in the wrong direction and away from prosperity and sustainability. Current thinking has not realized Hardin’s message that sustainability is of the class of no technology solution problems. We conclude with recommendations to radically advance a new world view and business paradigm. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tragedy or Transcendence: Reflections on 'The Tragedy of the Commons')
Open AccessArticle The Tragedy of the Commons from a Game-Theoretic Perspective
Sustainability 2012, 4(8), 1776-1786; doi:10.3390/su4081776
Received: 25 June 2012 / Revised: 30 July 2012 / Accepted: 3 August 2012 / Published: 13 August 2012
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (191 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Twenty years after the declarations from the Earth Summit in Rio, the world faces an unattenuated host of problems that threaten the goal of sustainable development. The challenge to cooperatively solve socio-ecological problems has been portrayed in Garrett Hardin’s essay “The Tragedy [...] Read more.
Twenty years after the declarations from the Earth Summit in Rio, the world faces an unattenuated host of problems that threaten the goal of sustainable development. The challenge to cooperatively solve socio-ecological problems has been portrayed in Garrett Hardin’s essay “The Tragedy of the Commons”. While this paper remains controversial, it has inspired a vast number of theoretical, experimental, and empirical contributions that have clarified the mechanisms of collective action problems and suggested ways to overcome these. This article reviews the recent game-theoretic research in this field. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tragedy or Transcendence: Reflections on 'The Tragedy of the Commons')
Figures

Open AccessArticle Why is There No Tragedy in These Commons? An Analysis of Forest User Groups and Forest Policy in Bhutan
Sustainability 2012, 4(7), 1448-1465; doi:10.3390/su4071448
Received: 21 May 2012 / Revised: 21 June 2012 / Accepted: 3 July 2012 / Published: 5 July 2012
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (313 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Governments around the world are increasingly devolving authority for forest management to the local level in an attempt to strengthen the management of national forests. Community forestry programs are recognized as providing a range of economic and social benefits and having a [...] Read more.
Governments around the world are increasingly devolving authority for forest management to the local level in an attempt to strengthen the management of national forests. Community forestry programs are recognized as providing a range of economic and social benefits and having a positive impact on increasing forest cover. However, concerns have been raised about the capability of user groups to manage community forests in a sustainable and equitable manner. This study analyzed the initial experience with community forestry in Bhutan and assessed the degree to which national policies have enhanced the likelihood of successful management by forestry user groups. The study found that the studied communities possess many attributes of successful forest user groups due to historical and socio-cultural reasons. National policies, including the unusual provision of handing over well-stocked forests to user groups, have further enhanced the likelihood of sustainable management by forest user groups. The initial experience of forest management by user groups in Bhutan is promising, and merits further study now that that a much larger number of community forests (CFs) have experience with harvesting. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tragedy or Transcendence: Reflections on 'The Tragedy of the Commons')

Journal Contact

MDPI AG
Sustainability Editorial Office
St. Alban-Anlage 66, 4052 Basel, Switzerland
sustainability@mdpi.com
Tel. +41 61 683 77 34
Fax: +41 61 302 89 18
Editorial Board
Contact Details Submit to Sustainability
Back to Top