On Science Blogs New Zealand there has been some debate on the Tragedy of the Commons, in the context of Climate Change. Stephen has been particularly cynical about acting to move forward. Here is my comment in reply to his last post. (Link to the full article below)
@ Stephen. Has clearly outlined the fundamental problem, that we describe as Tragedy of the Commons. The reasoning goes, “If I don’t over-exploit the commons, some-one else will”. When some stakeholders can’t see past that, the commons collapses and that is that.
What we have seen, through these comments, is that appeals to: reason, ethics, and examples of other countries already seeking to act… They fall of deaf ears.
My environmental text, tells us that there are two broad approaches to overcome Tragedy of the Commons. First privatize the commons; this is the approach taken by the Emissions Trading Act, an approach I think has dubious effectiveness;especially, as New Zealand’s major polluters: farming, international education, and tourism were left out. The second approach is cooperation. Homo sapiens, is successful because we cooperate and that’s where my hope lies. (Elinor Ostrom earned a Nobel Prize studying ways we cooperate, and international organizations like the IPCC are examples of international organizations building cooperative approaches. Science is another example of a fundamentally cooperative endeavor).
Another reason New Zealand needs to act to mitigate (and adapt to) climate change is because we have already committed to; both in the Paris Accord and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). New Zealand has committed to work toward positive change as have a majority of other countries. It’s not just signing the paper but a commitment to actively build a future our grand children can live with. Personally, I prefer to face the future from a stance of working to build a better future, rather than letting entropy take us places we would rather not go. Working toward the SDGs as we are committed to do is one cooperative way forward. Which leads me onto innovation.
The most important reason we need to begin acting on climate change is because it represents an opportunity for our innovators and entrepreneurs. My favorite business quotation is from Peter Drucker when he said, “Every social and environmental problem is an opportunity for business” (Or words to that effect). It seems to me that far too many people are stuck in a narrative that “Solving climate change is a cost”. We must challenge that narrative. Climate change is an opportunity. My problem with the Stephen story is that it discourages innovation and entrepreneurship. For me, Homo sapiens cooperating is a core value of our species; we cooperate as scientists, business folk and artists… and engineers. That’s us at our most human, cooperative best. That is how we have prevailed and grown. That is where our best hope lies now, and that is how we will escape the “Tragedy of the Commons”.
New Zealanders have pride in the way we have lead the world: women voting, agricultural innovation, nuclear free,… all of that. Let’s accept the challenge before us and join the individuals, businesses and countries moving honestly to solve climate change and successfully meet the sustainable development goals. Why? Because that’s us humans at our best.
Kia Toa, Kia Ngakaunui
Why is there pollution? Why is there an ecological crisis and why has it been so hard to deal with? There is certainly no shortage of culprits – people have blamed neoliberalism, capitalism, consumerism, economic growth, overpopulation, evil corporations, greed. But underneath all the many aspects of this difficult problem lies one fundamental phenomenon: the Tragedy of the Commons. This states that self-interest will lead to the depletion of an unmanaged, freely available resource, against everyone’s long-term interest. In an unmanaged fishery, each fisher has an incentive to catch as many fish as possible; if they don’t, another fisher will. Without cooperation between all parties, the fishery will be destroyed. It is one of those ideas that, once learned, you start to see everywhere, even in areas that are not purely economic. Voting, taxes, vaccination, rubbish, labour laws, health and safety, and human rights all share some of the features of the tragedy of the commons. They are all areas where progress has been made, slowly and with difficulty, in many countries. In climate change politics, the mechanism is constantly at work. Every country, every economic sector contains powerful voices arguing why someone else should cut emissions instead of them. This …
Source: Sciblogs | The tragedy of climate change