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Characteristics Of The Tragedy Of Commons

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Ever since Garrett Hardin’s publishing of the Tragedy of Commons in 1968, it has been used extensively to understand environmental problems. The tragedy of the commons can be defined as when individuals acting in rational self interest seek to maximize the benefit of Earth’s resources as fast as they can and in doing so, lack an incentive to conserve and regulate these resources (Olive, 2016). This concept can be seen in the 2014 film Damnation by Travis Rummel and Ben Knight. Below, it is shown how the dams in the movie exemplify key characteristics of a commons, why problems of the dams are hard to overcome and how these problems can be solved. By examining the dams shown in the film, it is evident that the problem of the dams is an accurate example of the tragedy of the commons. To put it simply, commons is defined as “land and resources belonging to or affecting the whole of a community” (Oxford Dictionary, 2018). The two key characteristics of a commons is that it is hard to exclude others from using it and it is subtractable, meaning it has finite quantity and declines through use/over time (Thorn, 2018). These characteristics can be related not directly to the dams but to the rivers they dam. For example, the Elwha River as shown in the film. Historically, the river was of great importance to the native Elwha tribe due to the fact salmon were an important part of their lifestyle and the river was an essential part of their spiritual heritage (Gowan et al., 2006).
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