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22 SEPTEMBER 2016

Elinor Ostrom and the solution to the tragedy of the commons

Elinor Ostrom's "research concerned the governance of common resources (also known as commons). The commons are natural resources, like land for grazing, fishing areas, forests for timber, water for the irrigation of farmland, and also more intangible resources, like knowledge, for which it is very expensive to control and fence in 'user' consumption. The problem with these types of resources, as shown in 1968 by Garrett Hardin (but Aristotle had already observed a similar phenomenon) is that they are over-exploited, or at least their care and sustainability is overlooked by users. The reason is that people behave opportunistically (like free-riders) and consider the resource they are accessing, without the possibility of being excluded, as a free resource, and they therefore maximize their private benefits but neglect, or collectivize, the costs.

Hardin coined the phrase 'tragedy of the commons' to describe this phenomenon and gave social sciences one of the most evocative metaphors after Adam Smith’s 'invisible hand'. These two metaphors are effective because they capture two essential social situations in marked contrast to one another. When social interactions are guided by an invisible hand, they reconcile individual choice and socially desirable results, whereas in the tragedy of the commons, individuals pursuing their private objectives cause disastrous consequences for themselves and others. The solution to the tragedy of the commons, before the contribution of Ostrom and her studies, was to privatize resources or, in a diametrically opposite view, to form a Leviathan state in order to manage them.

Instead, Ostrom demonstrated that, within communities, rules and institutions of non-market and not resulting from public planning can emerge from the bottom up to ensure a sustainable, shared management of resources, as well as one that is efficient from an economical point of view. Besides the village of Törbel, Ostrom shows examples of common lands in the Japanese villages of Hirano and Nagaike, the huerta irrigation mechanism between Valencia, Murcia and Alicante in Spain, and the zanjera irrigation community in the Philippines. Also, the property in the form of 'vicinale', neighborhoods, typical of regions of Italy like Emilia, the Belluno and the Ticino, are also collective institutions, although not investigated by Ostrom. The argument then has a more modern example if one notices that even the 'Wikipedia community' is a form of successful collective institution of a communal resource (knowledge)."

(Flavio Felice, Massimiliano Vatiero, 27 June 2012)

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TAGS

Adam Smith • American political economist • assets • Belluno • bottom-up organisation • collective institutions • collective interests • common pool resources (CPR) • common propertycommons • communal resource • economic governance • economic science • Elinor Ostrom • Emilia • English Industrial Revolution • exploitationfencing • Flavio Felice • Garrett Hardin • governance of common resources • Hirano • huerta irrigation mechanism • individual choice • invisible hand • Karl Polanyi • land management • Massimiliano Vatiero • Nagaike • natural resourcesopportunism • over-exploitation • political economics • political economist • political economyprivate control • privatisation • privatisation of land • public government • public planning • resource managementsocial interactionssocial situation • socially desirable results • sustainabilitysustainability thinking • Ticino • Torbel • tragedy of the commons • vicinale • Wikipedia • Wikipedia community • zanjera irrigation community

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
23 MARCH 2013

The Environment Nexus: WATER, ENERGY, FOOD

"Nexus thinking is a new way of thinking that recognises the crucial interdependence of water, energy and food – a relationship that forms the core of the Environment Nexus project. This new IIEA video explores the deep interconnections between the three essential resources and highlights the need for nexus thinking to help meet the world's needs, as it grows from 7 to 9 billion by 2050."

(The Institute of International and European Affairs, 20 February 2013)

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TAGS

20132050agricultureanimated presentationbio-ethicscall to actionclimateenergyenergy consumption • Environment Nexus • environment policy • environmental issuesEUEuropean Parliament • European Parliament Environment Nexus • foodfood productionfood security • global energy demands • global energy use • global interdependence • IIEAinfographics • innovative ways • Institute of International and European Affairsintegrated approachesinterdependenceIrelandmeatmeat productionnew thinkingnexuspolicy makersresource management • steak • sustainabilitysustainable consumptionsustainable futurevegetarianismwaterworld energy consumptionworld population

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
13 DECEMBER 2012

OCEAN2012 Transforming European Fisheries

"Since its start in 1983, the European Union's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has failed to prevent overfishing. Over 25 years, short–term economic interest and political expediency has landed European fisheries in deep crisis."

(European Marine Programme of the Pew Environment Group)

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TAGS

19832012abundancecall to action • CFP • Common Fisheries Policy • crisiscritical posturedecision makingdepletiondestructive practicesecology • EU Common Fisheries Policy • European Unionevidence • exhaustion • extinction • fair and equitable • fish • fish stocks • fisheries • fisheries policy • fishinghealthy oceansocean • OCEAN2012 • overfishing • policy decisions • policy making • political expediency • reformresource managementresponsibilityscientific evidence • short-term economic interests • supply • sustainabilitysustainable consumptionsustainable livelihoodswildlifewildlife reserves

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
08 APRIL 2012

Big Question: Feast or Famine?

"The world population is growing by 75 million people each year. That's almost the size of Germany. Today, we're nearing 7 billion people. At this rate, we'll reach 9 billion people by 2040. And we all need to eat. But how? That's a critical issue the IonE tackles in our first Big Question video.

At the same time, agriculture is a major contributor to climate change and will suffer as an industry from the consequences."

(Institute on the Environment, 2009, University of Minnesota)

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TAGS

2009 • 2040 • agricultureanimated presentation • Aral Sea • call to actioncarbon dioxide • cereal crops • climate change • computer models • consequencesconsumption • consumption trends • cows • critical issue • current technologies • desertecology • ecosystems • famine • fertilizer • food • global environmental systems • global populationglobal water crisisgrain production • green revolution • greenhouse gases • greening the desert • H2O • human activitieshuman civilization • human-caused emissions • Institute on the Environment • Jonathan Foley • land use • late 20th century • livestock • meatmethane • nitrous oxide • over-fertilized fields • populationpopulation growthrainforestresource managementrice • Robert Zeigler • ruminant animals • Stanley Wood • sustainability • The Inconvenient Truth • The Other Inconvenient Truth • University of Minnesota • University of Wisconsin • waterworld population

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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