Must the commons inevitably degrade in tragedy and loss or can we find a way to sustainably maintain our shared resources (our commons)? Garrett Hardin explored the difficulty of the problem but proposed no solutions in his famous 1968 essay in the journal Science. Elinor Ostrom helped analyze an enormous collection of case studies of successes and failures in governing the commons. This led to a theory of governance for the commons. Briefly her theory advises that "panaceas are not to be recommended" but with a polycentric engagement of stakeholders it is possible to govern the commons as numerous examples demonstrate. This work led to her 2009 Nobel prize in economics.
We will critically examine Ostrom's theory and her evidence to assess whether Humanity has finally acquired the know-how to solve the problem of the commons so that we can move beyond the tragedy that Hardin so eloquently framed. Can the commons be governed? Can we move beyond the Tragedy of the Commons? How can we put into practice the wisdom of Elinor Ostrom, the late great student and scholar of the precarious complexity of sharing limited resources?
CJ found these resources useful to better understand this topic:
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