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The Myth of the Tragedy of the Commons

category international | environment | other press author Sunday October 11, 2009 19:16author by Plebian Report this post to the editors

Recent research published in this week's New Scientist and The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that 'commons' communities would do a better job of managing forests than state control. Government control generally leads to enclosure (privatisation) and licensing rights for logging, or an expectation that the forest will not last leading to unsustainable exploitation.

Carbon storage potential is especially improved when community organisations and their institutions "incorporate local knowledge and decentralized decision making" to "restrict their consumption of forest products".
newforest_wl.jpg

The study (the first study of its kind) tracked the fate of 80 forests worldwide in 10 countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, over 15 years and under differing models of ownership and management. Furthermore, the authors of the study, (published in, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Chhatre and Arun Agrawal of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor ) suggest that locals would also make a better job of managing common pastures, coastal fisheries and water supplies.

This is in direct contradiction of the “tragedy of the commons” Agrawal says, “communities are perfectly capable of managing their resources sustainably”.

See links and quotes below,

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17937-give-forest....html

"....In the first study of its kind, Chhatre and Arun Agrawal of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor compared forest ownership with data on carbon sequestration, which is estimated from the size and number of trees in a forest. Hectare-for-hectare, they found that tropical forest under local management stored more carbon than government-owned forests. There are exceptions, says Chhatre, "but our findings show that we can increase carbon sequestration simply by transferring ownership of forests from governments to communities".

One reason may be that locals protect forests best if they own them, because they have a long-term interest in ensuring the forests' survival. While governments, whatever their intentions, usually license destructive logging, or preside over a free-for-all in which everyone grabs what they can because nobody believes the forest will last.

The authors suggest that locals would also make a better job of managing common pastures, coastal fisheries and water supplies.

They argue that their findings contradict a long-standing environmental idea, called the "tragedy of the commons", which says that natural resources left to communal control get trashed. In fact, says Agrawal, "communities are perfectly capable of managing their resources sustainably"....."



http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/10/05/0905308106

"Trade-offs and synergies between carbon storage and livelihood benefits from forest commons Abstract Forests provide multiple benefits at local to global scales. These include the global public good of carbon sequestration and local and national level contributions to livelihoods for more than half a billion users. Forest commons are a particularly important class of forests generating these multiple benefits. Institutional arrangements to govern forest commons are believed to substantially influence carbon storage and livelihood contributions, especially when they incorporate local knowledge and decentralized decision making.

However, hypothesized relationships between institutional factors and multiple benefits have never been tested on data from multiple countries. By using original data on 80 forest commons in 10 countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, we show that larger forest size and greater rule-making autonomy at the local level are associated with high carbon storage and livelihood benefits; differences in ownership of forest commons are associated with trade-offs between livelihood benefits and carbon storage.

We argue that local communities restrict their consumption of forest products when they own forest commons, thereby increasing carbon storage. In showing rule-making autonomy and ownership as distinct and important institutional influences on forest outcomes, our results are directly relevant to international climate change mitigation initiatives such as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) and avoided deforestation. Transfer of ownership over larger forest commons patches to local communities, coupled with payments for improved carbon storage can contribute to climate change mitigation without adversely affecting local livelihoods...."


However, none of this should be surprising given the multifarious faults* with Hardin's original article.

*
The Myth of the Tragedy of the Commons
http://climateandcapitalism.com/?p=513

Once Again: `The Myth of the Tragedy of the Commons`
http://climateandcapitalism.com/?p=576

Related Link: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17937-give-forests-back-to-local-people-to-save-them.html
author by Terencepublication date Sun Oct 11, 2009 21:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This is a really important article because it challenges some of the key assumptons about how we should manage the environment and there tends to be a lot of politics between supporting the view that the commons cannot be managed and we are effectively all doomed and this article which says otherwise BUT ONLY under particular circumstances.

There are many in the environmental movement and peak oil movement who argue their case using the tragedy of the commons and one person in particular is Jay Hanson who was one of the early people in the Peak Oil movement with his famous www.dieoff.org website. And while he falls on the less than optmistic end of the spectrum, he cannot be dismissed easly as he has done years of background research in all related fields from energy, resources, politics, and the evolution of the human mind and how it handles denial and self deceives and so has thought really long and hard about the massive problems we face. But I do feel that he, perhaps has failed to acknowledge that various traditional societies at different times and places HAVE successfuly managed the commons for centuries. Having said that it only takes one generation to totally undo the sustainability of all the previous generations.

Probably what this article demonstrates is that to manage the commons, it must be done rigidly (in terms of management) and there can be no exceptions to the centrality of sustainability, otherwise it is 'game over'

author by Plebianpublication date Sun Oct 18, 2009 15:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

That's true Terence. What's more we'll be hearing a lot of a priori guff about water charges in the near future.

For even more evidence of the providence of community management look at how the 2009 Nobel Prize for Economics (or more accurately the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel), has gone to Elinor Ostrum.

Ostrum who has devoted her career to studying Commons – and to disproving Hardin's "tragedy" claims, – won the Prize “for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons”.

Over the past three decades Ostrum has demonstrated, self-organised communities of "commoners" are quite capable of managing water systems, forests, fisheries, the genome and other finite, scarce and rivalrous commons resources without destroying them.

check out;

Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990)

Nobel Prize in Economics to Elinor Ostrom “for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons”
http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/18426

also
Carol Rose, “The Comedy of the Commons: Custom, Commerce, and Inherently Public Property,” University of Chicago Law Review 53 (1986): 711–781

author by Pete.publication date Mon Oct 19, 2009 15:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

All pre-industrial societies did good in "managing commons".
Why ?
They had no choice.
Nature ruled.

Every human action was achieved by muscle-power.

You slashed the corn with your own muscle power ...and that's how you slashed your enemies.
With Hammers and Sickles.

Horrible Machines changed all that.

The Hammer and Sickle is no match for the the Bulldozer.

Whole armies are no match for something as lethal as this destructive flying beast:

http://www.richard-seaman.com/Aircraft/AirShows/Nellis2...6.jpg

Technology got us into this hole.
Technology,and common sense, will dig us out of it.

Anyway,If we fail, Nature will not miss the Human Race.
Just one more failed species....like most species.

author by Pete.publication date Mon Oct 19, 2009 16:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

When the climate changes..........

"Necessity is the Mother of invention."

Not really.

The REAL mother:

"Desperation is the Mother of Invention."
.

 
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