Formerly SpringBlog

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Is It Really a Tragedy?

Shirky talked about the Tragedy of the Commons in Chapter 2 "Sharing Anchors Community". He says that "this solution prevents the individual actors from acting in their own interests rather than in the interests of the group" (53). And of course there is a wikipedia page, which outlines the theory extensively. PBS defined the concept as:
a term coined by Garrett Hardin describing the inexorable process of degradation of communal resources due to selfish self-interest of "free riders" who use or destroy more than their fair share of common property.
This definition that PBS took from a sustainability stance shows us that we all play a part in sustaining our resources around us. Just like the sheep in the Shirky chapter cannot overgraze one section of the grass because they all share it, we cannot use up too much of the resources that are available to us.

So my question is then—how are we, as a country, doing with this concept?

The answer I found is horrible. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has produced numerous graphs and charts to display these results across the world. The one I found most eye opening was the map of the world that showed the 2009 World Oil Consumption records. The United States is WELL beyond any other country in oil consumption. In fact, we are almost double China, which is number two in oil consumption.

We are not displaying what Shirky says is the essence of this theory. Through our outrageous oil consumption, we are hogging what is rightfully the world's. Granted this may not be a problem now because we still have ample supplies, but in the future when resources start to become depleted, our reliance on oil could have major implications.

I think we need to be aware of our oil consumption and start to think about these consequences now before it is too late. We cannot act out of our own self-interest all the time and we must think about our actions within the collective group. This is the essence of the Tragedy of the Commons and we can't let our own preservation get in the way of the world's sustainability.


1 comment:

  1. As much as I agree with this post, I have to disagree with the fact that it is a problem. Sure we use more than any other country. Is that wrong? Yes. Are we going to change it? Probably not.

    I do think it is sad, and we definitely have an over-dependence on oil, you can't argue that. But what would really happen if these situations played out?

    1. Countries that control the oil refuse to sell us oil or raise price too much, what do we do? Um well if it was a matter of life or death we would literally take it from them. If you think military action is too much, or we wouldn't swoop in and take over an entire country to have their oil then you must be seeing the small picture. (And we would back our Government's decision once they labeled everyone controlling the oil as Jesus-hating terrorists..)

    2. We (Earth) run out of oil. What happens? Probably nothing. Do you drive to work? No. You probably stay home and garden. People seem to forget that you can live off of rat meat and dandelion salad just fine.. they did it during the depression. IF the world ran out of oil tomorrow things would change but the human race would continue to adapt and move on with what we have available.