Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sustainability and the Commons

Alongside principles of sufficiency, the toolkit for environmental citizenship should include a concept of the commons. Economists and environmental studies majors probably learn about this idea through Garrett Hardin's paper on "The Tragedy of the Commons." Many probably come away thinking it's also the last word on the issue, even though a lot of work has been done since then, including the Creative Commons response to the "intellectual property" enclosures. But there's obviously a lot more to be done to make the concept vital and relevant to a society built around ideals of individualized consumption.

Proposals for expanded notions of service, whether on the local/state level (Gov. Strickland yesterday called for including a service project as part of graduation requirements for Ohio high schools) or at the national level (e.g. in Obama's inaugural, or in Robert Reich's column in the American Prospect) are steps towards a renewed appreciation of the commons. Another useful tool are the games and models developed by the Sustainability Institute, including the Fish Banks game discussed by Peter Senge in The Necessary Revolution. By getting players to confront the consequences of competitive and collaborative strategies, such games may help us loosen up the bias towards self-seeking maximization, the default strategy of the last three decades.

No comments:

Post a Comment