Learn about the Tragedy of the Commons with iMinds insightful audio knowledge series.The Tragedy of the Commons is a situation in which a jointly-owned resource is overused or destroyed because each person takes more than they would if the resource was privately owned. With each individual acting independently, the combined pressure on the resource exceeds what is in the interests of the community as a whole. The term was coined in 1967 by Garrett Hardin, a biologist from the University of California, in a famous article in the journal Science.
According to Hardin, there are some kinds of problems which society cannot resolve through technology, but which instead require a wholesale change in morality and behavior - what we might now call a cultural shift. Hardin used the example of global population growth, which he felt would eventually threaten our ability to survive as a species by placing too much pressure on the environment. Regardless of how advanced our technologies become, unrestrained population growth will ultimately result in widespread shortages of basic economic resources like land and water. Hardin’s insight has since been applied to many kinds of environmental problems, including over-fishing, over-irrigation, and pollution.
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A busy person who seeks a broader cultural literacy would do well to check out iMinds’ series of ultra-short introductions to some of the scientific and historical issues all informed citizens should know. At under 10 minutes each, iMinds’ audiobooks are perfect for a commute or a walk on the treadmill.
In this instalment, narrator Luca James Lee dives into "The Tragedy of the Commons", a celebrated theory by economist Garrett Hardin. Using the problem of overgrazing livestock and unchecked human population growth, Hardin asked what problems could not be solved by technology and could only be solved by the much trickier task of moral and civic change. At once a mind-bender and an astute analysis, "The Tragedy of the Commons" is an irrefutably important idea.
"I'm learning all sorts of stuff about stuff I didn't even know I didn't know. And it sticks. In a nutshell: wonderful." (Jonathon Margolis, Financial Times)
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