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Commons, Tragedy of the

  • By: Laurie S. Richmond
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

The tragedy of the commons is the idea that in an open natural system, the depletion of commonly held resources is inevitable. Competing individual and group interests place resource users in a trap that results in overexploitation and eventually decimation of common resources. While the idea of a “commons” was noted by many scholars, dating as far back as Aristotle, it is largely attributed to Garrett Hardin and his seminal 1968 article of the same name. His article focuses on the issue of overpopulation; however, its central impact has been its theories related to natural resource management. Given its influence on understandings of common resources and the architecture of natural resource policies, the tragedy of the commons is an important concept for geographers, particularly those ...

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