Tragedy of the Commons

DOI: 10.1007/1-4020-4494-1_328 In book: Encylopedia of Environmental Science, Chapter: Tragedy of the Commons, Publisher: Kluwer Academic Publishers, Editors: David E. Alexander, Rhodes W. Fairbridge, pp.601-602


Despite the reception of Hardin's essay on the tragedy of the commons, it was not a new concept: its intellectual roots trace back to Aristotle who noted that "what is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it."

What Hardin recognized was that this concept applies in its broader sense to a great many modern environmental problems (e.g., overgrazing on federal lands, acid precipitation, ocean dumping, atmospheric carbon dioxide discharges, firewood crises in less developed countries, overfishing). Simply stated, we face a serious dilemma - an instance where individual rational behavior (i.e., acting without restraint to maximize personal short-term gain at the possible expense of others) can cause long-range harm to the environment, others and ultimately oneself.

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Available from: Raymond K De Young, Jan 01, 2014
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