Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Governing commons still a struggle, but fight not without hope, according to new report

12.12.2003


Thirty-five years after biologist Garrett Hardin issued his prophetic essay, "The Tragedy of the Commons," which warned that human beings would ultimately destroy commonly shared resources, a re-examination of the state of common pool resources by three researchers, including Indiana University Bloomington political scientist Elinor Ostrom, offers an urgent yet hopeful message.



The authors of a new report, "The Struggle to Govern the Commons," which will appear in a special Dec. 12 issue of Science, say they are "guardedly optimistic" about mankind’s ability to govern such critical commons as the oceans and the climate. They point to systematic multidisciplinary research showing that widely diverse adaptive governance systems have been effective stewards of many resources.

"In many areas of commons governance, we have witnessed significant improvement," said Ostrom, the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science and co-director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis and the Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change. "Certainly the world is not uniform, but there are signs of some resources improving even though others are deteriorating. People have devised ingenious ways to manage and govern the commons."


"Of course, we also recognize that human beings still have an incredible capability to harm themselves," she added.

In Hardin’s 1968 essay, which appeared in Science and launched an entire field of ecological research, he claimed that only two institutional arrangements -- centralized government and private property -- could sustain commons such as air, groundwater and forests over the long run. To illustrate his point, he used a little-known pamphlet written in 1833 by mathematician William Forster Lloyd about the use of public lands by herdsmen. In Lloyd’s story, a pasture is open for grazing to all herdsmen. This arrangement works for a while, even for centuries, until each herdsman realizes he can make a profit by adding more and more cattle to his herd. Ultimately, in a world in which resources are limited, human greed "brings ruin to all," Hardin concluded.

But Ostrom and colleagues Thomas Dietz of Michigan State University and Paul C. Stern of the National Academies in Washington, D.C., say that Hardin presumed resource users were trapped in a commons dilemma, unable to create solutions. "He missed the fact that many social groups -- including the herders on the commons that provided the metaphor for his analysis -- have struggled successfully against threats of resource degradation by developing and maintaining self-governing institutions. While these institutions have not always succeeded, neither have Hardin’s preferred alternatives of private or state ownership," the authors write.

The authors argue that governing the commons will always be a struggle, and that ideal conditions for governance are increasingly rare, but that sustaining Earth’s resources is made easier when humans work to establish and enforce rules that are changeable, engage in well-structured dialogue with all interested parties, design complex institutional arrangements that are nested in many layers, and consider local information that can help identify future problems and develop solutions. People also must be prepared to deal with conflict, because there are bound to be sharp differences in power and values across interested parties, and to allow for adaptation, because some current understanding is likely to be wrong, the scale of organization can shift, and biophysical and social systems change.

In an online supplement to the article, remotely sensed images from five countries illustrate that either forest stability or deforestation can occur under all forms of ownership. Instead of ownership being the key -- as Hardin and many others have argued -- the processes for gaining agreement on a legitimate set of rules and their enforcement are far more important.

The authors cite several examples of successful commons governance. These examples range from smaller-scale efforts, such as the Maine lobster fishery, which is governed by formal and informal user institutions that have strongly influenced state-level rules that restrict fishing, to large-scale efforts such as the Montreal Protocol on stratospheric ozone, which has helped stabilize the atmospheric concentration of ozone-depleting substances. In contrast, the authors write that international efforts to reduce greenhouse gases have yet to have impact.

Too often, "strategies for governance of local commons are designed in capital cities or by donor agencies in ignorance of the state of the science and local conditions," the authors write. "The results are often tragic, but at least these tragedies are local."

The authors conclude that the challenge is for humans "to develop and deploy understanding of large-scale commons governance quickly enough to avoid the large-scale tragedies that will otherwise ensue."

Is the challenge too great? Ostrom is concerned, but she remains positive.

"It would be unwise to just be optimistic, but I’m hopeful that people will realize that, while certainly not easy, effective commons governance is possible," she said. "There is no blueprint, no one way to solve things, but that’s not to say we can’t learn from one another. It’s all about the concept of learning."

Ryan Piurek | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://newsinfo.iu.edu/

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: OLED microdisplays in data glasses for improved human-machine interaction

The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.

“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...

Im Focus: Artificial Intelligence Helps in the Discovery of New Materials

With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...

Im Focus: Complex hardmetal tools out of the 3D printer

For the first time, Fraunhofer IKTS shows additively manufactured hardmetal tools at WorldPM 2016 in Hamburg. Mechanical, chemical as well as a high heat resistance and extreme hardness are required from tools that are used in mechanical and automotive engineering or in plastics and building materials industry. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden managed the production of complex hardmetal tools via 3D printing in a quality that are in no way inferior to conventionally produced high-performance tools.

Fraunhofer IKTS counts decades of proven expertise in the development of hardmetals. To date, reliable cutting, drilling, pressing and stamping tools made of...

Im Focus: Launch of New Industry Working Group for Process Control in Laser Material Processing

At AKL’16, the International Laser Technology Congress held in May this year, interest in the topic of process control was greater than expected. Appropriately, the event was also used to launch the Industry Working Group for Process Control in Laser Material Processing. The group provides a forum for representatives from industry and research to initiate pre-competitive projects and discuss issues such as standards, potential cost savings and feasibility.

In the age of industry 4.0, laser technology is firmly established within manufacturing. A wide variety of laser techniques – from USP ablation and additive...

Im Focus: New laser joining technologies at ‘K 2016’ trade fair

Every three years, the plastics industry gathers at K, the international trade fair for plastics and rubber in Düsseldorf. The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will also be attending again and presenting many innovative technologies, such as for joining plastics and metals using ultrashort pulse lasers. From October 19 to 26, you can find the Fraunhofer ILT at the joint Fraunhofer booth SC01 in Hall 7.

K is the world’s largest trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry. As in previous years, the organizers are expecting 3,000 exhibitors and more than...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Experts from industry and academia discuss the future mobile telecommunications standard 5G

23.09.2016 | Event News

ICPE in Graz for the seventh time

20.09.2016 | Event News

Using mathematical models to understand our brain

16.09.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Chains of nanogold – forged with atomic precision

23.09.2016 | Life Sciences

New leukemia treatment offers hope

23.09.2016 | Health and Medicine

Self-assembled nanostructures hit their target

23.09.2016 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>