Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tragedy of the Commons

My niece Alisa is studying this in college.

The tragedy of the commons refers to a dilemma described in an influential article by that name written by Garrett Hardin and first published in the journal Science in 1968.[1] The article describes a situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently, and solely and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource even when it is clear that it is not in anyone's long-term interest for this to happen.

Implicit in this scenario is growth of consumption of resources faster than the resources can be replenished.

It seems to me all living things are hard wired to compete for resources to survive. The tragedy is that some living things consume, hoard, poison and squander resources they don't need for survival.

And consider that Big Oil and Big Coal are part of the picture. Corporations have no conscience. They're like the terminator... They can't be bargained with,they can't be reasoned with,they don't feel pity or remorse or fear! And they will not stop EVER...

Ok a little over the top there... the hated Walmart went green. And corporations will respond if enough of their customers complain... not because it's the right thing to do, but because they need to protect the bottom line.

Here is an example

Then They Were Gone

Donald Paul is a self-employed inshore fisherman who's been working the waters off Burin since 1974. He owns his own small boat and works the near-coastal waters around Placentia Bay, landing fish ashore at the end of the day. He's lucky to still be fishing.

"Back when I started there were plenty of fish," Paul says. "I'd say the first year I noticed something was 1978," Paul says. "In normal years we'd get 200,000 pounds of cod, but that year it was more like 70,000 pounds. Then all of a sudden they just crashed."

The shock came in 1988. New modeling techniques and the latest stock survey revealed that many groundfish stocks were on the edge of collapse. The northern cod stock--by far the largest and most important--was in the worst shape of all. Fisheries scientists concluded that quotas had to be more than halved in order to prevent this stock's collapse. Politicians were appalled; the proposed quotas would have caused economic chaos throughout Eastern Canada. So the politicians compromised what could not be compromised. Quotas were cut by only 10 percent.

More frightening data poured in confirming the stock was in serious trouble, that fishermen had been capturing as much as 60 percent of the adult cod every year for several years running. Plants closed and 2,000 people were out of work. Canada released $584 million in emergency assistance. Fishermen tried as hard as they could, but could only catch 122,000 of the 190,000-ton cod quota for 1991. The stock was in free fall.

When the 1992 fish surveys were released, politicians finally realized that regardless of what quotas they set, nature had spoken: there would be no fish to feed the plants and working families of Atlantic Canada. The estimated combined weight of the adult cod population was a mere 1.1 percent of its historic levels of the early 1960s. In 1992 the government finally closed the Banks altogether to allow the stock to recover. But by then it was far too late.
A Run on the Banks
How "Factory Fishing" Decimated Newfoundland Cod

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